The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the death of an Irsik & Doll Feed Services employee who died last month after getting trapped in a grain bin at the company’s grain elevator in Cimarron.

Irsik & Doll reported the incident to OSHA within eight hours of the incident, as required, an OSHA spokesperson said in an email. The Wichita OSHA office will have six months from the date of the accident, Feb. 22, to complete the investigation, issue citations and determine penalties if violations are found, the spokesperson said.

An Irsik & Doll official said the employee was Edmond Fitzgerald, but declined to share his job title at the company. The company’s initial release withheld the employee’s identity and the OSHA spokesperson declined to share it.

When inspecting any worksite, OSHA compliance officers will research the site’s history, look for hazards in relevant sections of the site that can cause employee injury or illness, review worksite injury and illness records and meet privately with employees, according to an OSHA fact sheet. After the inspection, potential safety violations will be cited, with possible fines, and the officer will discuss potential courses of action with the employer and set deadlines for the company to address and correct hazards, according to the fact sheet.

The intent of the investigation at Irsik & Doll is to determine how Fitzgerald got trapped in the grain bin and “if by allowing the employee to enter the bin ... the company violated any safety or health standards,” the OSHA spokesperson said in an email.

This is the second time OSHA has inspected Irsik & Doll since 2014, according to OSHA records. After a scheduled inspection in January 2015, compliance officers cited the company for serious violations regarding maintenance for exit routes, general machine requirements and wiring methods, and another violation regarding “hazard communication.” The company was ultimately fined $3,749.

Gray County Sheriff deputies were called to the Cimarron elevator at about 9 a.m. Feb. 22, arriving on the scene along with Gray County EMS and the Cimarron and Ingalls fire departments, said Sheriff Jim Kramer.

The Gray County Sheriff deputies are trained to handle grain bin entrapments, but the incidents are fairly rare in the area, Kramer said. It’s been more than a year since deputies responded to their last entrapment incident, which was in Liberal, he said. He said deputies have not had to respond to such incidents in Gray County in recent memory and it’s the first time they have responded to one at Irsik & Doll.

Irsik & Doll reported to OSHA that the employee entered the grain structure to check on a part and “became entrapped,” the OSHA spokesperson said in an email. The employee was engulfed in the Butler building, a flat warehouse connected to the concrete elevator, according to a press release from Irsik & Doll.

Kramer said sheriff deputies tried to enter the grain bin to reach Fitzgerald but could not make it far without breathing apparatuses. They called a high tower rescue team from Montezuma EMS, who were able to pull Fitzgerald from the bin. Fitzgerald died on the scene, Kramer said.

Dodge City coroner James Moffit sent an investigator to the scene and Gray County EMS ultimately transported Fitzgerald to Western Plains Regional Hospital in Dodge City, Kramer said.

According to the company's press release, Fitzgerald’s immediate family had been notified.

“Irsik & Doll would like to thank the first responders for all of their efforts and we would like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the friends and family of our employee,” the release read.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.