Silo safety concerns raised following Miller Co. farm OSHA citation after employee suffocation

The company the deceased worker was employed by is now facing a $41, 303 citation for all nine violations.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:35 PM EDT
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COLQUITT, Ga. (WALB) -A Miller County farm is facing over $40,000 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations. This comes after a 56-year-old Cedar Head LLC worker was suffocated to death in a grain silo in April 2023.

The Miller County coroner said the incident happened off Highway 91. The 59-year-old worker who died is now identified as Pedro Juarez-Perez.

OSHA investigators said Perez got in a half-full bin of grain to unclog clumps as the bin’s auger was turning below him. When Perez went to stand up in the grain, the pile shifted and quickly engulfed him. A worker tried to rescue Perez after seeing a rope that was tied to him was disappearing, but could not save him in time.

After OSHA finished its investigations, they said Cedar Head LLC violated nine serious procedures and determined the deadly incident could have been avoided. The violations include failing to train workers on how to safely enter a grain bin and failing to require augers and other equipment to be de-energized and effectively locked out. OSHA also said the company failed to notify them of a work-related death within eight hours of the incident.

Cedar Head LLC faces a $41, 303 citation for all nine violations.

A farmer in the area who didn’t want to be identified said the incident was an accident and the worker did have on a safety harness at the time of the incident. He also said farming in general is a dangerous job where people take risks every day.

Sam Cook, Tri-states grain conditioning salesman and educator, said he agrees with that as he hears about grain entrapment deaths every year.

“Just can’t emphasize enough the safety culture, and that there’s no reason everyone can’t go home safe every night,” Cook said.

According to OSHA, moving corn or grain acts as quicksand and can bury a worker in seconds. That’s what investigators say happened to Perez.

“There might be a crust on top of that grain. It’s basically like walking on a frozen lake where there’s nothing underneath you,” Cook said.

Cook also said air quality in grain bins can become deadly. In OSHA’s investigation, they found that the company exposed employees to poor air quality due to the auger being on while they were in the grain bin.

“Grain respires just like we do. It breathes in oxygen, it respires carbon dioxide, and so there can be low oxygen. It can be high levels of CO2 inside the bins or other toxic gases,” Cook said.

WALB News 10′s Lenah Allen reached out to the owner of Cedar Head LLC who said he is working with OSHA investigators and is not ready to make a statement at this time.