A Sheldon business has been fined following a workplace fatality last year when an employee fell into a corn trailer and asphyxiated when he was engulfed.

The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued penalties in March totaling $55,904 against Heartland Cooperative Services for multiple violations identified by OSHA as serious. OSHA has not yet closed the case, and information may change such as violations may be added or deleted. The current penalty amount is $35,145 on six violations.

According to OSHA, at 3 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2019, an employee and coworker were sitting on top of a semi-trailer while corn gluten feed was being delivered and were poking at the feed with a pole. The employee fell into the hopper trailer and quickly became engulfed beneath the surface. Several employees and emergency services personnel arrived onsite to assist in pulling the employee through the bottom of the front hopper from underneath the trailer. The employee was pronounced dead at the site due to asphyxiation.

The victim was identified as Glen Flora resident Kevin Wiemer, 57, the co-op’s manager.

Wiemer was recovered, and life saving measures were taken. He was moved to a landing zone several blocks away from the co-op, where medical crews worked to save Wiemer. 

OSHA may issue penalties up to $13,494 for violations it identifies as serious.

On violation 1 — OSH Act General Duty Paragraph.  Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees and shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act. Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct. According to OSHA records, the employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to engulfment hazards: (a) Bulk feed intake area at Sheldon, location of Heartland Cooperative Services; On Sept. 19, 2019, two employees were exposed to engulfment hazards while working from atop the sidewalls of a Timpte brand hopper bottom trailer during the unloading process. While sitting on top of the trailer sidewall and poking at the bridged corn gluten feed product with long poles, one of the employees was fatally engulfed after falling into the trailer. The initial $13,494 penalty is currently listed as $10,795 following an informal settlement.

On violation 2 — Ladders. The initial $5,783 penalty is currently listed as $7,000 following an informal settlement.

On violation 3 — Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection. The initial $7,711 penalty is currently listed as $0 following an informal settlement.

On violation 4 — Fall protection systems and falling object protection-criteria and practices. The initial $7,711 penalty is currently listed as $4,626 following an informal settlement.

On violation 5 — Mechanical power-transmission apparatus. The initial $9,639 penalty is currently listed as $5,784 following an informal settlement.

On violation 6 — Mechanical power-transmission apparatus. The initial penalty was $0.

On violation 7 — Mechanical power-transmission apparatus. The initial penalty was $0.

On violation 8 — Grain handling facilities. The initial $5,783 penalty is currently listed as $3,470 following an informal settlement.

On violation 9 — Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use. The initial $5,783 penalty is currently listed as $3,470 following an informal settlement.

On violation 10 — Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use. The initial penalty was $0.

 

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