The U.S. Department of Labor has fined two Illinois grain operators nearly $1.4 million following the deaths of three workers, including two teenagers, who were killed when they suffocated after being engulfed by grain.
Haasbach LLC was issued 24 citations following an investigation into the deaths of the two teenage workers, Wyatt Whitebread and Alex Pacas (ages 14 and 19 years old, respectively), at the company's grain elevator in Mount Carroll, Illinois. A 20-year-old man also was seriously injured in the same incident when all three became trapped in corn more than 30 feet deep. The citations include violations of child labor safety laws and willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, commonly referred to as OSHA.
Hillsdale Elevator Co. was issued 22 citations following the death of a 49-year-old worker, Raymond Nowland, who was engulfed by corn in a storage bin at the company's facility in Geneseo, Illinois. OSHA discovered additional violations during a later inspection of the company's Annawan, Illinois facility.
In the Department of Labor's news release, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stated, "The tragic deaths of three people could have been prevented had the grain bin owners and operators followed the occupational safety standards and child labor laws. It is unconscionable to allow a minor to work in any high-hazard area. Haasbach's and Hillsdale's disregard for the law and commonsense safety practices has led to devastation for three families."
OSHA sets and enforces safety standards for employers to ensure their employees have safe and healthful workplaces. When employers violate OSHA's safety laws and as a result a worker is injured or killed, the government may seek to punish the company for its violations. However, a worker and his or her family often have legal rights for compensation, and to pursue these rights they should contact a qualified attorney with experience in cases involving construction and workplace accidents.