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Fatal grain bin accident may have been prevented

Many in Florida have heard about the dangers of grain storage bins -- according to reports, working inside of one while the contents are flowing out can be like performing your job next to a pit of quicksand. One of the companies involved in a fatal 2010 incident said that the families of the deceased will only be entitled to workers' compensation and may not be successful if they choose to seek damages.

The incident occurred in late July 2010. Four workers entered a grain storage bin to help with the flow of the corn stored inside because the moisture levels were too high. This caused the corn to clump, necessitating some sort of assistance with breaking it up so that the flow could be managed well. There were several problems with this situation though.

None of the individuals inside of the bin had been properly trained to manage such a situation. Safety protocols were not being followed: A nearby shed held the harnesses that could have saved the lives of two individuals that day. Worse yet is the fact that at least one of the workers was too young to be working at the facility legally. Two people suffocated beneath the corn that day: two males, ages 14 and 19.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the matter as it had done with many other grain storage bin accidents. OSHA chose to make an example of this incident by fining the company $555,000 and citing them three times for a total of 25 violations. Though this grain accident may or may not result in a civil suit of wrongful death, other similar incidents have seen criminal charges filed. In one case, a company settled and was forced to pay the family of a deceased worker $500,000. An attorney could help others seeking damages for workplace incidents file successful suits.

Source: Kansas City Star, "Young lives lost in dangerous jobs," Jim Morris & Howard Berkes, March 23, 2013

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