Wilcox Farms fined in Roy silo collapse that killed worker

Staff writersJune 4, 2014 

Wilcox Family Farms has been fined $67,200 for not properly maintaining a silo at a Roy feed mill that collapsed last December and buried a worker beneath 500 tons of grain, killing him.

The Department of Labor & Industries cited the company for one “willfull” violation and two safety violations that likely contributed to the silo’s collapse Dec. 2.

Killed in the incident was Steven Green, a 44-year-old Marine who left behind a wife, four children and 13 grandchildren.

The company on Wednesday issued a news release responding to L&I's findings.

"We are reviewing their findings and are in the process of looking at all our options," the release stated. "During the investigation, we cooperated fully and were completely transparent."

Wilcox Farms has until June 20 to appeal or pay the fine.

The company also said it has hired a firm to "provide designs and consulting for rebuilding structurally a sound and safe mill."

Wilcox Farms is dedicating a memorial to Green at its feed mill on Saturday.

"We feel very sad at the loss of a father of four and a wonderful husband," the company's statement said.

Green and another worker were using an auger to discharge corn when the silo gave way, releasing 100,000 pounds of grain from its bottom. One worker ran east and safely escaped. Green ran west and was buried in the avalanche of grain. It took more than two days to recover Green’s body.

The damaged silo hit two nearby silos as it fell, knocking one into a metal office building. The collapse bent structural beams and broke water lines.

Wilcox Farms and investigators never said what caused the 60-foot silo to collapse. L&I’s report indicates the company did not properly maintain the equipment or educate their employees.

Four factors contributed to the “willful” violation, which L&I said was issued due to “evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule.”

 The two workers were using a side discharge system to unload corn instead of taking it out with an auger from the center of the silo, which is against standard procedure. The unloading auger was broken the day of the collapse, according to L&I.

 The silo was overfilled to the roof rather than stopped one inch from the top as required.

 When the wall of the silo ruptured in the past, the company repaired it with a patch instead of corrugated material. It also wasn’t done to ensure structural stability and wasn’t looked at by a structural engineer.

 Wilcox Farms had simultaneously filled the silo while discharging it in past operations.

The "willfull" violation citation was for $56,000. The two serious violations amounted to $5,600 each. They were for Wilcox Farms not training employees in safety practices for silo operations and maintenance and not maintaining the silos in accordance with the manufacturer’s procedures.

Those violations put employees “at risk of serious injury or even death due to possible silo structural damage/failure,” inspectors wrote.

Wilcox Farms did not regularly assess the major components of the grain storage and did not develop a checklist for the major components of the grain storage, according to the report.

The company has until July 1 to fix those problems.

After the accident, the company hired consulting engineers to demolish the three silos. It’s unclear if they have been replaced. Inspectors said the danger no longer exists.

“We want to understand why and how this tragedy happened and ensure that it will never happen again,” CEO Brent Wilcox said in December. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our employees.

This is not the first time Wilcox Family Farms has been cited for safety violations. They were ordered to pay $10,000 in penalties for seven safety violations found during an inspection of the Roy feed silo last July, according to records.

The violations included problems with the corn tank that collapsed, including not fully informing workers of the hazards of entering the silo and not ensuring minimum precautions were met when employees were inside the silos.

They were also cited for not having adequate rescue and emergency services available before entering the silos and containment pit.

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