Worker Fatally Injured after Fall at Farmers Cooperative

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MCCOOL JUNCTION, Neb. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Farmers Cooperative has been cited by OSHA for one repeat and two serious safety violations after a 73-year-old worker died after an incident at its McCool Junction fertilizer plant.

OSHA says the worker sustained injuries after falling while loading a tanker truck. They say the worker died from the injuries May 13. The full-time employee had worked for the company since February 2013.

“Anyone who has to work at heights above 5 feet must be protected with fall protection equipment and trained on how to properly use it,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Farmers Cooperative failed to implement the basic fall prevention steps that could have prevented this senseless tragedy.”

OSHA’s investigation found that Farmers Cooperative failed to provide a standard guard rail in the fertilizer plant’s batching area and issued one repeat citation for that violation. The company was previously cited for this violation in Exeter, Nebraska, in 2011 and Wilbur, Nebraska, in 2013. OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was cited for a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

OSHA says two serious violations were cited for failing to provide fall protection for employees who were working on top of tanker trucks and not providing railing on stairways. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA says additionally, Farmers Cooperative has previously been cited by OSHA for violations related to OSHA’s grain bin standards at its grain elevators in Wilbur, Pickrell, Dorchester, Exeter and McCool Junction. This was the first inspection at the McCool Junction fertilizer plant, which was recently purchased by the company.

OSHA says 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 & Health Review Commission. Proposed fines total $84,000.

Ron Velder, president and CEO of the co-op, says the order will be appealed but he declined to discuss OSHA's findings.