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March 26, 2019
OSHA, industry allies highlight grain safety

Grain engulfment is one of the most serious, sometimes fatal, safety and health hazards in the agriculture and grain and feed processing industries. OSHA and its industry partners are sponsoring a “Stand-Up for Grain Safety Week,” March 25–29, to alert workers to grain handling hazards.

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Employers are encouraged during this week to hold safety meetings or toolbox talks to focus workers’ attention on hazards in their jobs that include:

  • Grain bin entry and the associated combustible dust, engulfment/entrapment, fall, and heat hazards; and
  • Lockout/tagout, machine guarding, respiratory protection, and struck-by hazards.

Industry alliance

OSHA and the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) formed an alliance September 13, 2017, to provide NGFA members with guidance and information, as well as access to resources to protect grain workers.

The American Feed Industry Association, Grain Elevator and Processing Society, Grain Handling Safety Coalition, Nationwide Insurance, and University of Texas-Arlington also participate in Stand-Up for Grain Safety Week. Nationwide also sponsors its own grain bin safety week in February to train fire and emergency medical services in grain engulfment response.

Event planning checklist

The Stand-Up Week partners have compiled a checklist that employers can use to plan an event. Suggestions include:

  • Determining the topics and hazards to address;
  • Determining what kind of events and activities to hold and how many people can attend;
  • Setting the dates and times for events—trying to find a time when most employees can attend or scheduling multiple times;
  • Selecting a suitable location—outside for a toolbox talk or in a break, conference, or training room for a safety meeting;
  • Identifying resources needed—audiovisual equipment, chairs, and handouts;
  • Getting the event(s) on the calendar; and
  • Reviewing contact information for key personnel and sending invitations.

OSHA and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association held a series of half-day seminars throughout Wisconsin during last year’s Stand-Up Week. In addition to covering engulfment and entrapment hazards, the seminars included a combustible dust explosion demonstration conducted inside an explosion chamber.

Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Inc. (MAC), a grain handler with seven elevators, held Stand-Up events at all its facilities last year. In 2017, MAC experienced an employee entrapment at one of the facilities. The employee was safely rescued, but the incident called attention to the need for worker training.

Engulfment hazards

Entering a grain bin can be extremely dangerous. A worker can become trapped in grain within 4 to 5 seconds, completely covered within 22 seconds, and quickly suffocate. OSHA regulations prohibit “walking down grain,” which is when an employee walks on grain to make it flow within or out of a grain storage structure.

Employers must have equipment for rescue operations like a grain rescue tube, which is lowered into the grain to shield the worker so grain can be removed and the worker freed from grain entrapment.

OSHA and its Stand-Up Week partners have educational resources employers can use for a safety meeting, toolbox talk, or other event during Stand-Up for Grain Safety Week.

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