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A Columbus grain facility has been slapped with a stiff fine after investigators recorded several violations during an inspection last fall.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Madison area office cited Duffy Grain for two willful and six serious safety violations, totaling $122,500 in penalities. In addition, the company has been placed in the government agency's 'Severe Violator Enforcement Program.'

OSHA inspectors were sent to the mill in September 2015 after receiving a complaint accusing the company of unsafe working conditions.

According to OSHA officials, inspectors observed a worker at risk of being engulfed in grain and entangled by operating augers as they cleaned storage bins.

'Sending workers into a grain bin with the auger moving is extremely dangerous,' said Ann Grevenkamp, OSHA's area director in Madison in a news release. 'Duffy Grain knows the precautions that needed to be taken to protect its workers, but failed in their responsibility to follow them. Someone's life and well-being should never be the cost of doing business.'

Grevenkamp says it takes just two to three seconds for flowing grain to trap a worker in a grain storage bin. Sixty seconds later, hundreds of pounds of grain can submerge and smother them.

'When it happens, more than half the time workers die by suffocation,' Grevenkamp said.

Federal safety investigators found workers faced with this and other dangers at Duffy Grain's Columbus facility when they toured the site in 2015.

The program focuses on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, 'struck by,' combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.

Inspectors found the following violations:

· The sweep auger and conveyer were operating when employees entered bins.

· Pulleys on augers and horizontal belts lacked guarding to prevent workers from coming in contact with operating parts.

· Observers did not monitor worker while they were inside the grain bin nor issue entry permits as required by confined space regulations.

· Respiratory hazards.

· Body harnesses with lifelines were not provided when employees entered grain bins.

· Equipment suitable for grain bin rescue was not available.

· Atmosphere inside of grain bins for not tested for air quality.

Duffy Grain Inc. operates grain elevators in Columbus and Marshall. Established in 1928, the company also includes a trucking company.

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.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

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