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OSHA proposes $507,000 fine against grain elevator where two Wichita men were killed

Emergency crews respond to a call at a Gavilon grain elevator in south Wichita, where two people were trapped and died Jan. 2, 2018.
Emergency crews respond to a call at a Gavilon grain elevator in south Wichita, where two people were trapped and died Jan. 2, 2018. The Wichita Eagle

The operator of a Wichita grain elevator where two men died in early January faces a more than half a million dollar fine.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday it has proposed a $507,374 fine against Gavilon Grain LLC. It also has placed the Omaha-based company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which an OSHA spokeswoman said means the agency can inspect any and all company facilities because the company has “shown a pattern of violations.”

Gavilon operates hundreds of grain facilities across the U.S.

Joshua Rasbold, 28, and Marcus Tice, 32, died after they were buried under 20 to 25 feet of grain on Jan. 2 at Gavilon’s elevator near 55th South and Hoover Road.

OSHA said in a news release it cited Gavilon Grain LLC for not providing employees lifelines and fall protection, lockout equipment and rescue equipment; and for allowing employees to enter a bin “in which bridged and/or hung-up grain was present.”

“Moving grain acts like quick sand, and can bury a worker in seconds,” OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille said in the release. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had provided workers with proper safety equipment, and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards.”

Gavilon is contesting the citations and will appear before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, a federal agency independent of OSHA.

“While we disagree with many of OSHA’s allegations, and have formally contested both citations, Gavilon will continue to cooperate fully with OSHA and remains committed to employee safety in all its facilities,” the company said in an e-mailed statement to The Eagle. “Gavilon would, again, like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends affected by this incident.”

Gavilon has faced 24 cases of safety and health violations over the past seven years, according to an earlier Eagle review of OSHA records.

The grain elevator where the Wichitans were killed was previously owned and operated by DeBruce Cos. In 1998 the DeBruce elevator exploded, killing seven employees and injuring 10.

Gavilon acquired DeBruce in 2010.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark
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