Cenex Harvest States Inc. (CHS) faces proposed fines totaling $229,000 for safety violations at its grain elevator in Columbus.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company, which does business in Columbus as Central Montana Co-op, with a total of 13 violations.
An investigation was initiated under OSHA’s regional-emphasis program targeting grain-handling operations, a press release for the agency’s office in Seattle said Wednesday. An inspection leading to the citations was conducted March 10.
In response, CHS Communications Director Lani Jordan issued a press release from her office in Minnesota saying the company was disappointed by the scope and extent of the citations, which resulted from a routine inspection.
“CHS is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our employees, strives for compliance with all regulatory requirements and maintains cooperative working relationships with regulators,” the release said.
Jordan said the company would have no other comment except that CHS is reviewing details of the citations and determining a course of action.
OSHA listed one “willful” violation for failure to test for hazardous air in some confined spaces before employees entered. A “willful” violation is one committed with knowledge of or disregard of the requirements of the law, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, OSHA said.
The proposed fine for the willful citation is $70,000.
CHS also was charged with three repeat offenses. Two were related to unguarded open trap doors, holes in the floor and lack of railings that could prevent falls.
The third repeat violation was failure to remove fugitive grain dust when accumulations exceed an eighth of an inch. The citation charged that employees were exposed to fire and explosion hazards from a build up of 4 inches of combustible dust in several areas of the elevator.
Proposed fine for each of the repeat violations is $35,000.
OSHA also issued nine “serious” violations involving unguarded platforms; walkways with uncovered holes; improper design of ladders; a lack of implementation of a housekeeping program for combustible dust; no communication provided during entry to certain confined spaces; a lack of atmospheric monitoring before entering grain-storage structures; and improper electrical wiring for high-dust areas.
A “serious” violation as defined by OSHA is one where there is a “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer should have known.”
The proposed fine for the serious violations totaled $54,000.
“The hazards associated with grain handling operations are well recognized,” said Christine Webb, OSHA’s area director in Billings. “All employers, especially those engaged in high-hazard activities such as those found in the grain industry, must take steps necessary to create a safe and healthful workplace.”
The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with Webb or contest the findings before the independent OSHA Review Commission.