News Release USDL: 96-86
Thursday, March 7, 1996
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
Death Of Young Worker Prompts OSHA To Ensure
Greater Protection For 250,000 Employees In Grain Handling
The death of a young man in a corn
storage structure in Florida has
prompted the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA)
to revise its standard for protecting
almost 250,000 workers at
24,000 grain elevators and mills.
OSHA today issued a final rule
revising the standard to ensure greater
protection for workers against hazards
of being engulfed by grain or being
entrapped when mechanical equipment
is used to move the grain.
The rule revision was set in motion
following the death of 19-year-old
Patrick Hayes, who was walking
across the structure filled with
grain when he was pulled down
into the grain and suffocated.
Hayes' father, Ron, of Fairhope,
Ala. met with Secretary of Labor
Robert B. Reich and Assistant
Secretary of Labor for Occupational
Safety and Health Joseph A.
Dear last October.
Secretary Reich said today, "The
tragic death of this young man and
his father's untiring efforts to make
sense out of that senseless death
led to what we are doing today. We
hope that these changes will avert
such tragedies in the future."
Ron Hayes not only spent considerable
time trying to determine the cause
of the accident, but quit his job to
become a tireless advocate of workplace
safety. He organized a nonprofit
organization called FIGHT (Families
in Grief Hold Together) to provide
guidance to families who have lost
a loved one in a workplace accident.
Dear said today, "The OSHA
investigation of Patrick Hayes'
death revealed the need to clarify
the original intent of the grain
handling standard. These changes
provide that clarification."
Among other things, the revised
standard specifically prohibits the
practice of "walking down" grain to
make it flow within or out from a
grain storage structure. OSHA noted
that this is an extremely dangerous
practice that exposes an employee to
an ever-increasing risk of engulfment
as grain is eroded from underneath
the surface layer.
The revised standard requires
a harness with a lifeline or a
boatswain's chair to provide
protection whenever an employee
walks or stands on grain at a
depth that poses an engulfment
hazard. If this is not feasible,
the employer is to provide an
alternative means to prevent the
employee from sinking further than
waist-deep in the grain.
The tragic incident involving
Patrick Hayes occurred Oct. 22, 1993,
when he and two other employees were
instructed to enter a Showell Farms,
Inc., corn storage structure in De
Funiak Springs, Fla., to walk down
the corn. The workers entered the
facility not at the top, but through
an opening several feet above the ground.
The three men walked down the corn
while an auger at the base of the structure
was running. At one point, Patrick Hayes
sank into the corn up to his knees.
The two other workers tried to pull him
out, but he kept sinking as the corn
began to avalanche, covering him and
pushing in the direction of the auger.
One co-worker left to shut off the
auger while the other continued to try
to pull him from the corn. Rescue
efforts were unsuccessful.
Provisions in OSHA's grain-handling
standard had protected employees from
hazards while walking on or underneath
accumulations of grain within a
grain storage facility.
However, it did not apply to
employees entering "flat storage
buildings or tanks" unless entry
is made from the top of the structure.
OSHA intended the exception to apply
only to entries that did not expose
the employees to atmospheric, engulfment
or entrapment hazards.
The standard had assumed that
hazards from entry into flat storage
structures only arise when the entry
is made from the top, because employees
who enter in that manner would do so in
order to stand or walk on the stored
grain. The text of the standard did
not directly address situations in
which the same hazards would be
encountered during entries from lower
In the seven years since the original
standard was issued, OSHA has learned
that many entries take place from such
levels lower than the top of the
structure in facilities with dimensions
of greater diameter than height.
In the Hayes incident, because entry
was not made from the top of the structure,
questions arose later whether the Showell
farms structure was a flat storage
building as defined in the original standard.
The revision will provide employees
entering flat storage facilities with
protection against entrapment, engulfment
and mechanical hazards, regardless of
their point of entry.
The definition of a "flat
storage structure" also was clarified.
It is defined as a grain storage building
or structure that will not empty
completely by gravity, has an
unrestricted ground level opening
for entry, and must be entered to
reclaim the residual grain, using
powered equipment or manual means.
The revised standard also requires
that all mechanical, electrical, and
pneumatic equipment that presents a
danger to employees inside grain
storage structures shall be deenergized
and disconnected, locked-out and
tagged, blocked-off, or otherwise
stopped by other equally
effective means or methods.
The final rule is published in
the Friday, March 8, 1996 Federal
Register and becomes effective April 8, 1996.