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US OSHA proposes $215,000 fine for grain facility following dust explosion

05 July 2021

The US Department of Labor has cited a grain facility for workplace safety failures following a dust explosion that severely injured a worker in December 2020. In a statement, the safety regulator said that had MFA Enterprises – operating as West Central Agri Services – addressed potential dust ignition sources, an explosion that seriously injured the employee and caused the destruction of a main elevator might not have happened.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the grain-handling facility for one wilful and six serious safety violations, and proposed penalties of $215,525. The West Central Agri Services is located in the town of Adrian, around 60 miles south of Kansas City in Missouri.

An OSHA investigation into the 31 December 2020 explosion determined that the company failed to equip bucket elevators with monitoring devices that notify workers when a belt is slipping and potentially causing friction that could ignite grain dust. OSHA standards require these devices at grain handling facilities that have a storage capacity of over one million bushels. OSHA also found the company had not updated its dust collection system since its installation in 1974.

Additionally, OSHA found that the company exposed workers to falls by wilfully allowing them to walk atop railcars to open and close hatches without fall protection. The company also failed to repair an overhead trolley system used for connecting fall protection devices. The agency determined the system was out of service at the time of its investigation, and noted violations involving lack of preventive maintenance and a failure to designate hazardous areas.

“West Central Agri Services failed to follow industry standards and create company policies for safe grain handling, and needlessly put their own workers in serious danger,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille in Kansas City, Missouri. “Grain handling hazards can be avoided by using well-known safety measures that are proven to help prevent workers from being injured or killed.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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