Silo collapse likely unrelated to earlier safety violations, agency says

Emergency responders from the South Pierce Fire Department respond to a grain processing feed mill owned by Wilcox Farms in downtown Roy, Wash., Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, after one of its silos collapsed. Three workers escaped, but one died. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Steve Bloom)

ROY, Wash. — The collapse of a grain silo that left one worker dead may be unrelated to hazards the owner was cited for early this summer, according to the state agency that oversees worker safety.

The investigation into the Dec. 2 collapse will likely take several months, Elaine Fischer, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, said.

On Dec. 4 emergency workers managed to stabilize the structure, remove thousands of pounds of corn and recover the body of Steven Green, age 44, an employee of Wilcox Farms. Green was married with three daughters and a son.

Wilcox Farms, a fourth-generation family farm that produces eggs and egg products, was ordered to pay $10,000 for safety violations found in a June 27 inspection of its silos in Roy. Violations included problems with the silo that collapsed.

“The earlier inspection was specific to atmospheric hazards and working in confined space,” Fischer said. “Those hazards have all been corrected.”

That inspection is completed and final, and the investigation into the collapse is just beginning.

“The circumstances now are completely different,” she said. “A lot of people want to find out what happened.”

The federal safety agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is not involved because Washington's state agencies have jurisdiction.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over the grain. Agency inspectors have been on site since soon after the collapse ensuring there are no contamination issues, spokesman Hector Castro said. 

WSDA has also lent assistance to the recovery effort and to the Wilcox operation, Kirk Robinson, assistant director of food safety and consumer services, said.

“We’ll work with the Wilcoxes on whether to dispose of seed or put it back into feed system,” he said. “The dry weather this week will likely allow the feed to be reused.”

The corn was most likely brought in by rail from other regions to be processed for the layer operation, Robinson said.

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