2 Workers Succumb To Dangerous Fumes While Cleaning Rail Cars


Pekin, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) - A 37-year-old worker at Agridyne's Pekin facility climbed down into a rail car to clean out corn steep residue and was overcome by dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas. A 29-year-old tank inspector, who attempted to rescue the first worker, succumbed to the gas exposure as well. Neither worker made it out of the car alive.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation that followed the June 2014 tragedy led to three willful and eight serious safety violations, many involving permit-required confined space safety regulations. OSHA determined that neither victim was equipped with an emergency retrieval system before they entered the car. The primary cause of death of both employees was closed space asphyxiation and hydrogen sulfide intoxication, a byproduct of the residual organic waste contained in the tank. As a result, the liquid animal feed manufacturer has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"Permit-required confined spaces put workers in real and immediate danger. Atmospheric conditions must be tested and monitored before workers enter," said Thomas Bielema, OSHA's area director in Peoria. "The employer must also ensure that safety equipment, such as a retrieval line, is provided to employees and used. This was a terrible incident that was completely preventable."

Agridyne LLC also failed to complete a permit-required confined spaces entry permit; did not use testing and monitoring equipment to evaluate the permit space condition prior to entry; and failed to require employees to use rescue and emergency equipment. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, such as a rail car clean-out, but it has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

OSHA also found the company failed to designate trained rescue employees and use a retrieval system attached to the worker to aid in rescue; train workers and place warning signs about hazards that may be encountered in confined spaces; and ensure rail tank cars had been ventilated prior to entry. Eight serious citations were issued for these violations.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

OSHA has proposed fines totaling $266,000. To view the current citations, visit

The Springfield-based company employs 47 workers corporatewide and eight at the Pekin location. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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