Meadowland Farmers Co-op is facing $375,000 in fines after a worker became engulfed by grain and suffocated at the Lamberton, MN, facility last May, said officials at the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MN OSHA).

Inspectors determined the co-op failed to guard a grain chute floor hole, ensure workers wore a body harness with a lifeline, and provide a safety observer or rescue equipment for workers entering a silo.

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As a result, the co-op is facing six willful violations.

In one violation, the employer did not ensure that that each employee was protected from falling through a hatchway and chute-floor hole by a guardrail system or a travel restraint system when a work operation necessitated passing material through a hatchway or chute floor hole.

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On May 18, employees emptying soybeans from silo 102 were not protected from falling into a chute floor hole in the silo.

The atmosphere within a bin, silo, or tank in the grain handling facility was not tested for the presence of combustible gases, vapors, and toxic agents or oxygen content prior to employee entry.

On May 18, the employer had not tested the atmosphere of silo 102 prior to employees entering the silo to shovel down soybeans.

In addition, an observer, equipped to provide assistance, was not stationed outside the bin, silo, or tank being entered by an employee.

On May 18, employees entered silo 102 to shovel down soybeans, without an observer stationed outside.

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