SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- The grain elevator owned by Andersen Farms that exploded in late May is not subject to enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The Journal also found that no other government agency is probing the incident, which led to the death of an employee.
OSHA investigators arrived on site following the explosion to survey the scene but dropped its investigation in late June after learning the privately-owned elevator had too few employees to fall within its jurisdiction.
Department of Labor spokesman Scott Allen said U.S. law exempts family farm-owned facilities with fewer than 11 non-family employees from OSHA's purview.
"The Omaha area office stayed involved in the case until the employer provided sufficient proof that OSHA did not have jurisdiction," he said in an email.
In the case of a commercial elevator, OSHA representatives would investigate and could levy penalties for violations of grain elevator safety standards. Such was the case in 2016 when investigators examined the scene of a March 17 blast at Central Valley Ag in Hinton, Iowa, that severely injured two workers.
The result was a citation carrying four serious violations and a $14,850 fine. An informal settlement later reduced that to three lower violations and a $6,000 fine.
Family-owned grain elevators with few employees like the one owned by Andersen Farms are also exempt from regular inspections by the Nebraska State Fire Marshal's Office. Commercially licensed grain elevators are inspected by the office on a three-year basis.
"We don't inspect privately-owned storage facilities," Alyssa Sanders, deputy fire marshal and public information officer, said. "There's hundreds throughout the state."
Located near the intersection of Fourth Avenue and West 24th Street, Andersen Farms' 230-foot-tall elevator suffered an explosion that blew a hole in its side shortly before 1 p.m. May 29, due to a cause that's still unknown. One employee, 55-year-old Maurice C. Kellogg, was hospitalized with severe burns and died July 9.
The Andersen Farms grain elevator has since been torn down, and local and state fire officials are no longer investigating a cause.
"If anything, it's going to be an investigation by the insurance company," South Sioux City Fire Chief Clint Merithew said last week.
The demolition of the structure was paid for by Andersen Farms. Owner Bryce Andersen did not immediately reply to the Journal's request for comment late last week.
South Sioux City Administrator Lance Hedquist said the city incurred approximately $122,000 in expenses after the incident, mainly costs to pay for extra police and fire personnel to staff and guard the site, which borders some homes.
The city had declared a state of emergency to become eligible for state financial assistance, but Hedquist said he doesn't believe the city will receive any.