Silo Engulfment Fatality Draws Osha-Proposed $55K Penalty

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Cincinnati Area Office cited Monroe, Ohio-based Central Ready Mix, LLC for 10 serious safety violations after an employee at the company’s Middletown, Ohio, plant was fatally engulfed while breaking fly ash clumps clogging a silo. After attempts to dislodge clumps with a metal bar and air hose failed, OSHA officials note, the employee climbed into the silo, without a harness and lanyard, and devoted several hours to clearing the vessel before being engulfed.

The citations involve several violations of OSHA’s confined space permit entry requirements, including failing to evaluate a workplace for permit-required confined spaces; develop a written permit space entry program, including signage; create measures to prevent unauthorized entry; provide necessary equipment; train workers on procedures; and, develop a permit issuance system and procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services. Other violations include failing to ensure workers use harnesses with retrieval lines attached; address unsafe catwalks; correct an unguarded floor hole in the silo catwalk; and, use flexible electrical cords properly. Proposed fines total $55,800.

“Engulfment is one of the six major hazards present in silo-type storage facilities. Employers can’t be assured that entries into a silo without incident will occur,” said OSHA Area Director Bill Wilkerson. “This was a terrible, preventable tragedy that underscores the importance of complying with safety precautions, such as using harnesses and lanyards. Employers are responsible for identifying hazards and ensuring workers follow proper procedures to prevent injury or death.”

OSHA’s permit-required confined space standard establishes procedures to protect workers who must enter, work in or exit spaces with configurations that hinder their activities. The configurations of such spaces may increase workers’ exposure to entrapment, engulfment and/or hazardous atmospheric conditions, which can lead to serious physical injury, illness or death.