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OSHA cites Sikes Farm in silo incident

Agency: Incident ‘should have been preventable’

OSHA cites Sikes Farm in silo incident

OSHA cites Sikes Farm in silo incident

Rescue personnel work to free a man w...


The February incident in which two men were trapped in a grain silo "should have been preventable," an Occupational Safety and Health Administration official said.

Furthermore, Greg Sikes Farm LLC in Brooklet "cannot continue to fail its workers by not providing employees with a safe and healthful work environment," said Robert Vazzi, the area director of OSHA's Savannah Area Office.

Greg Sikes LLC, doing business as Greg Sikes Farm LLC, was cited "with two willful and five serious safety violations and proposed penalties of $127,400," OSHA spokesman Michael D'Aquino said. "The Brooklet farm was inspected in February upon notice that a worker had become entrapped inside a grain handling storage bin while attempting to clear soybeans from a jammed auger."

David H. Averitt, a former Georgia State Patrol trooper who worked in agriculture, and Darrell Colson, a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder with Bulloch County, were both entrapped for hours. Averitt became engulfed in the unstable bin of soybeans around noon that day, while Colson was trapped within the shifting beans a few hours later when he was trying to help extricate Averitt.

"Two willful violations involve failing to ensure the screw auger is locked out when workers are inside the bin, and provide workers a body harness with a lifeline upon bin entry," D'Aquino said, explaining "A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health."

The serious violations include "failing to develop an emergency action plan, provide annual training on grain handling hazards and obtain permits addressing bin entry procedures and requirements," he said. "The company also failed to equip the workers who entered the bin with rescue equipment, allowed workers to walk on the grain and did not ensure that an observer was stationed outside during bin entry or was equipped to provide assistance in case of an emergency."

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, he said.

"This incident, involving well-recognized hazards within the grain industry, should have been preventable," said Robert Vazzi, OSHA's area director of the agency's Savannah Area Office. "Sikes cannot continue to fail its workers by not providing employees with a safe and healthful work environment."

The soybeans were not level in the grain silo, located on Greg Sikes' farm off Georgia Highway 46 near Jadith Deloach and Red Hill Church roads, and movement could have caused further shifting, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn, while he was on the scene during the rescue.

The 40-foot-tall silo was about two-thirds full when the accident occurred.

Averitt was immersed up to his armpits, according to reports. Rescue personnel were inside the bin as well, shoveling the beans to keep them level and prevent them from engulfing Averitt, when Colson also became trapped, becoming immersed in the beans up to his chest.

Both men were extricated from the tons of beans around 7:30 p.m. that day and were flown by Air Evac and LifeStar air ambulances to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Wynn said.

Sikes did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Thursday. Neither Collins nor Averitt was immediately available for comment Thursday.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

 

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