As fall harvest season approaches, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a reminder to grain industry employers and workers to put health and safety programs into effect that control hazardous energy, ensure safe bin entry, and promote active housekeeping.
OSHA’s Grain Handling Industry Local Emphasis Program defines the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards as engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions, and injuries from electrocutions.
“Far too many preventable incidents continue to occur in the grain-handling industry,” OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Kim Stille, said in an agency statement Wednesday. “Every employee working in the grain industry must be trained on grain-handling hazards and given the tools to ensure they don’t enter a bin or silo without required safety equipment. They must also take all necessary precautions – this includes using lifelines, testing the atmosphere inside a bin, and turning off and locking out all powered equipment to prevent restarting before entering grain storage structures.”
According to the agency’s statistics, 22-grain entrapment cases occurred in the U.S. in 2015. 4% of those incidents happened in commercial grain facilities and 82% occurred on farms that are exempt from OSHA compliance. Citing research from Purdue University, OSHA said 51 workers were engulfed in grain bins in 2010, of which 26 died – the greatest number on record. The university researchers found that of over 900 reported cases of grain engulfments since 1966, 62% of the incidents led to a worker’s death.
The agency is reaching out to industry leaders to raise awareness of grain-handling hazards. In August, OSHA’s Omaha, NE area director Jeff Funke spoke at the National Grain and Feed Association on grain handling safety.
“It is vital that we work with leaders, farmers, and those employed in the grain and feed industry to increase awareness of hazards in the grain industry and discuss ways to protect workers on the job,” said Funke in a statement. “In our presentation to the NGFA, we were able to reach about 5000 employees on a national level. Through education, training, and common sense safety procedures we can prevent workplace injuries and deaths in the grain industry.”
Employers need to take the variety of hazards presented by grain handling into account to protect worker safety, OSHA said.
“Grain dust accumulation must be controlled to prevent a fuel source in bins from igniting in proximity to operating conveyors, augers, and other equipment. OSHA grain handling standards address the numerous serious and life threatening hazards found in grain bins including grain dust explosions, engulfment, and entrapment from flowing grain, falls and amputation hazards,” OSHA’s Wichita, KS area director, Judy Freeman, said in a statement. “These common sense safety standards protect workers on the job in this hazardous industry.”