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Montana grain mill death leads to OSHA investigation


Working in a grain elevator is a hazardous occupation. In fact OSHA has made the industry an area of emphasis on a national basis, according to the agency's director for the Billings area. The director says it is not unusual for grain elevators to be found in noncompliance with OSHA safety regulations.

The hazards of the grain milling industry were tragically demonstrated in Great Falls recently, when an elevator worker was killed after stepping into an auger. Great Falls Police were dispatched to the site in response to a report of a worker losing a leg. According to the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, the man bled to death from his wounds.

The grain elevator, operated by Montana Specialty Mills, was cited by OSHA for seven safety violations in 2012 and fined $24,000. Two of the seven OSHA violations related to coverings of floor openings and revolving machinery. It is not known at this time, however, if the unsafe working conditions for which the plant was cited in 2012 were involved in the recent fatal accident. An OSHA investigation into the accident has commenced but results are not expected for several months.

When an employee is killed in a fatal workplace accident, family members are entitled to recover death benefits under Montana's workers' compensation system. The benefits are designed to compensate the family for a portion of the income they have lost as a result of the worker's death. Compensation is also available for funeral expenses.

Unfortunately, employers and their insurance companies do not always pay all the workers' compensation benefits to which the grieving family is entitled. When that happens, the family can take them to court and demand payment of the benefits. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can represent the family and make sure they get all they are entitled to under the law.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, "OSHA investigating fatal grain mill accident," Eric Dietrich, June 6, 2014

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