EVANSVILLE, Ind., March 4 (UPI) -- A Nebraska grain storage company faces nearly $230,000 in penalties related to the death of one of its employees in a grain elevator in September.
The Department of Labor cited Interstate Commodities for "grain handling violations" that resulted in the death of Zane Fecht at the company's Fremont, Neb., facility.
The company also was placed in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's severe violator enforcement program.
The program "is intended to focus enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations relating to significant hazards," according to OSHA.
Fecht, 32, entered a concrete grain elevator Sept. 22 to "break up the crust on the grain, when he reportedly fell through the crust, and had not emerged from the grain elevator," according to Dodge County Sheriff's Office, which responded to the call.
Fecht was not wearing a harness or a lifeline, which OSHA requires at such facilities.
"Grain industry employers are legally required to train workers, and provide them with appropriate rescue equipment prior to entering a grain bin," Matt Thurlby, the OSHA Omaha area director, said in a statement.
"Tragedies such as this can be prevented when safety procedures and hazard control measures are implemented," Thurlby said.
Interstate Commodities, whose headquarters is in Troy, N.Y., did not respond to calls for comment. According to the Department of Labor, the company requested an informal conference with OSHA, which will be held March 17.
"It's an opportunity for the company to discuss OSHA's findings with the OSHA area director and present information that may change the severity of the citations or penalties," Scott Allen, a spokesman for the Department of Labor, said in an email.
"If OSHA and the company do not come to an agreement, then the company can choose to contest the citation," Allen said.
Dozens of farmers, farmworkers and grain elevator employees die in grain bins every year. Most such accidents occur on small farms, which are not required to follow the same safety regulations as larger commercial facilities.