WICHITA, KAS. — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said on July 30 that it has proposed a $507,374 fine against Gavilon Grain L.L.C. following an incident in early January at its Wichita elevator where two employees died.
OSHA said Gavilon, which is based in Omaha, Neb., also has been placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means the agency can inspect “any and all” company facilities because the company has shown “a pattern of violations.”
Joshua Rasbold, 28, and Marcus Tice, 32, died after they were buried in 20 to 25 feet of grain at the Gavilon elevator in Wichita.
Gavilon was cited for not providing employees lifelines and fall protection, lockout equipment and rescue equipment; and for allowing employees to enter a bin “in which bridged and/or hung-up grain was present,” according to OSHA.
OSHA’s grain handling rule (29 CFR 1910.272) treats silos as confined spaces, requiring workers lowered into a silo to be tethered to an escape system and have an observer watching. The rule also says people should not enter a silo if machinery, such as augers are running.
“Moving grain acts like quicksand, and can bury a worker in seconds,” said Kimberly Stille, a regional administrator at OSHA. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had provided workers with proper safety equipment and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards.”
Gavilon said it is contesting the citations and will appear before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, a federal agency independent of OSHA.
“While we disagree with many of OSHA’s allegations and have formally contested both citations, Gavilon will continue to cooperate fully with OSHA and remains committed to employee safety in all its facilities,” the company said in a written statement that was sent to the Wichita Eagle. “Gavilon would, again, like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends affected by this incident.”
It is the same grain elevator complex where a grain dust explosion occurred in 1998, killing 7 people and injuring 10. The facility at that time was owned by DeBruce Grain, which was acquired by Gavilon in 2010.
The Gavilon facility in Wichita has grain storage capacity of 35.1 million bus, according to Sosland Publishing Company’s 2018 Grain & Milling Annual.