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New development in Illinois grain-bin death proves troubling

A number of jobs are risky by their very nature. Although this is a tough reality many workers face each day, their employers can take steps to mitigate work-related dangers by providing adequate training and complying with safety regulations. Unfortunately, these measures were not followed in the case of an Illinois agricultural accident that claimed the life of a teenage boy.

Almost three years ago, a 14-year-old boy was excited to begin working at a local Illinois farm. No sooner than his second day, tragedy struck. While manipulating corn in a silo, the teen and two of his fellow workers were sucked deep into the grain. The 14-year-old boy suffocated and his companions were not extricated for several hours.

In response to the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation, which yielded $555,000 in fines for safety violations. Unfortunately, OSHA recently cut the fines by over 50 percent. This decision has left workplace safety advocates and the victims' loved ones feeling upset and frustrated. Not only was the boy too young to be working in a grain bin, but he received essentially no on-the-job training.

This particular case and OSHA's response is part of a much larger pattern. Since 1984, 179 workers perished in grain-bin accidents. When fines were issued, they were reduced more often than not. This has led many to ask: Is enough being done to protect workers in this situation?

Most employers are required by Illinois law to carry workers' compensation insurance, which can provide essential financial support to those impacted by a serious or fatal workplace accident. In some cases, employers are willing to comply with the law, but workers' compensation laws are immensely complicated and claims can be denied. This is why it's often critical for those affected by an on-the-job injury to gain a complete understanding of their legal rights and options.

Source: National Public Radio, "Fines Slashed In Grain Bin Entrapment Deaths," Howard Berkes and Jim Morris, March 24, 2013

  • Our firm has experience helping injured workers and their families. To learn more about the topics discussed in this post, please visit our Naperville workers' compensation page.

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