During the Battle of Stalingrad in 1949, one particularly well-protected Soviet stronghold was known simply as ‘The Grain Elevator,’ and played an important strategic role to both sides in the outcome of the conflict.
Today, however, for Midwesterners grain elevators no longer serve as chess pieces on the field of war, but are instead a common agricultural staple, used in the farming industry. A grain elevator is a tower containing a bucket-elevator that scoops up grain from a lower level and deposits it into a silo or other storage facility. In common American vernacular, the term “grain elevator” is often used to refer to the entire complex including storage facilities as well as the lifting mechanism for which it is named. Though undoubtedly useful, grain elevators if improperly equipped with safety devices, have the potential to be extremely dangerous due to their propensity to explode.
Devastatingly, that’s exactly what happened just last year in the Midwest. According to the Washington Post, Family members of four people killed in a grain elevator explosion have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against employees of Bartlett Grain Co. less than five months after federal investigators pinned the blame for the blast on the grain sorting company. The Washington Post reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a report in April saying the grain-dust explosion could have been prevented if the elevator’s operators had addressed hazards known in the industry.
Although a spokesperson on behalf of the Department of Labor said that the company has contested the citations and fine it received after the investigation into the explosion, the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office issued a report calling the explosion an accident, abut saying there was no evidence of criminal activity, said the Washington Post. OSHA, however, sought $406,000 in penalties in addition to citations alleging five willful and eight serious safety violations, including an assertion that the company allowed grain dust, which is nine times as explosive as coal dust, to accumulate and used compressed air to remove dust without first shutting down ignition sources. OSHA defines willful violations as those committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
As a result of the worker’s deaths, four wrongful deaths have just been filed on behalf of the four employees who were killed – along with two grain inspectors – when the grain elevator exploded. The Post reported that the families of the inspectors have obtained attorneys but aren’t involved in the lawsuits filed this month because the men weren’t employees of the company, so their cases will be handled separately.
Grain is an irreplaceable staple in our diets, and despite – or perhaps because of – this fact, persons working in the grain industry need to be especially careful in their work. According to the International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health, every year an average of 88,000 agricultural workers are injured and 551 are killed. Of those injuries and deaths, Illinois had the highest rate of accidents.
Our Illinois injury lawyers know that the best result is to avoid a hazard altogether, before it causes injury. However, tragically accidents do occur, and our attorneys understand the laws involved and have the diligence to fight for your rights. In many cases, farm safety falls under Premises Liability law, in which the owner of a property is liable for injuries that occur on that property as a result of the owner’s negligence. If you or a loved one have suffered a farm-related, or premises liability-related injury, an attorney may be able to advise you of your rights under the law.