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OSHA Cites New York Agribusiness after Grain Engulfment

McDowell and Walker faces $203K in OSHA fines for numerous safety failures

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

On November 29, 2021, a supervisor at McDowell and Walker Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of grains, feeds and other agricultural products, told an untrained employee to enter a grain bin to clear a feed buildup that clogged a silo entry point at the company's Afton, NY, facility, said the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in a release.

While attempting to clear the buildup, the conveyor transporting the feed into the silo activated, partially engulfing the worker in leftover feed.

The employee avoided serious injury with help from a coworker.

OSHA investigation

An inspection by OSHA found that McDowell and Walker Inc. exposed the employee to engulfment hazards by failing to adhere to legally-required grain-handling safeguards. Specifically, the company failed to:

  • Provide the employee a required body harness with lifeline or boatswain's chair and other rescue equipment before entering the grain bin
  • De-energize, lock out and tag the conveyor and chutes transporting the feed to prevent them from operating with the employee in the bin
  • Complete an entry permit to control hazards in the grain bin prior to directing workers to enter
  • Train workers on grain-handling hazards, including entering confined spaces, loading feed into trucks, bagging feed, transporting feed into bins and related housekeeping duties

Other hazards identified

OSHA also identified numerous other hazards at the Afton facility related to incomplete programs to reduce flammable grain dust accumulations on ledges, floors, equipment and other exposed surfaces; blocked exit routes; fall and tripping hazards; inadequately anchored and guarded drill press; and incomplete inspection certifications.

OSHA cited the company for two willful, nine serious and three other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed $203,039 in penalties.

"McDowell and Walker Inc.'s failure to follow required safety practices nearly cost a worker his life," explained OSHA Area Director Jeffrey Prebish in Syracuse, NY.

"They must provide training and equipment as required by OSHA's grain handling facilities standard to ensure workers are protected from grain handling hazards."

This employer meets the requirements for OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

View the citations.

OSHA's Grain Handling Safety Standards focus on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, "struck by," combustible dust explosions and electrocution.

Learn more about OSHA and agriculture industry safety resources.

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