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June 27, 2013
OSHA, Midwestern states focus on grain bin safety
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

OSHA is working with groups across six Midwestern states to reduce grain engulfment injuries and deaths. In a series of regional news releases, OSHA highlighted the dangers of agricultural grain bins and urged employers in the feed and grain industry to implement safety programs.

Grain bins can be dangerous for a variety of reasons, but the primary hazard for workers is engulfment. According to OSHA, a worker can become engulfed in flowing grain in just 5 seconds and be unable to escape, and can become completely submerged in just 60 seconds. Due to the behavior and weight of moving grain, escaping from it without assistance is extremely difficult. Most grain engulfments result in death by suffocation.

Other hazards in the grain industry include:

  • Falls;
  • Auger entanglement;
  • Struck-by injuries;
  • Combustible dust explosions; and
  • Electrocution.

Training and prevention

In six Midwestern states—Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin—OSHA has partnered with universities, industry groups, and other parties to help get out the message on prevention and develop training materials. For example, in Ohio, where there have been two recent engulfment deaths, OSHA has worked with The Ohio State University to develop a grain safety training session.

In conjunction with the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois and the Illinois Grain Handling Safety Coalition, OSHA has developed a stop sign decal that can be affixed to grain bin doors. The decal reminds anyone entering a grain bin to follow certain essential safety procedures:

  • Lock out all moving equipment.
  • Protect floor openings.
  • Avoid engulfment: Stay clear of waist-deep grain and do not 'walk down' grain.
  • Check the atmosphere prior to entry into a grain bin. Monitor for oxygen levels, fumigants, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide.

To request the decal, individuals or companies can email the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois at info@gfa.org.

Education is key

One complication to the issue of grain bin hazards is the fact that many facilities where these dangers exist are family farms employing fewer than 10 people. OSHA does not have jurisdiction over such facilities—a fact that increases the importance of educating affected parties on the subject. Though OSHA may not have enforcement authority over certain small family farms, communicating the dangers involved in grain handling and making safety and training resources available to agricultural facilities could go a long way toward preventing injuries and deaths.

OSHA has more information on grain handling safety at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html.

For more information on grain handling safety from BLR, check out these resources:

State issues tips on grain handling safety

Is it time for a change in OSHA’s farm exemption?

Teen worker safety: Grain bin hazards

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