OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

April 2, 1996


FROM:               JOHN B. MILES, JR., DIRECTOR 

SUBJECT:            Revised Grain Handling Standard:  Guidance to Compliance

OSHA revised 29 CFR 1910.272, "Grain Handling Facilities," on March 8, 1996; the revisions are effective on April 8, 1996. The purposes of this memorandum are, first, to ensure that field staff is aware of the general nature of the changes so that they can be applied properly in affected inspections; second, to provide interim guidance regarding the changes, pending revision of OSHA Instruction CPL 2-1.4B. A copy of the new standard is attached.

Summary of Changes to 29 CFR 1910.272 Changes to the standard clarify requirements which provide protection for workers who enter bins, silos and tanks covered in paragraph (g), and flat grain storage structures which are now covered in a new paragraph (h). More specifically, the changes address hazards to workers from engulfment and other sources, such as machinery operating in a grain storage structure, and provide employee protection without regard to the point at which the employee enters the storage structure. The definition of "flat storage structure" has been added. And, training requirements for employees who enter grain storage structures have been amended to specify training about engulfment and mechanical hazards.

Flat Storage Structures A "flat storage structure" is a grain storage building or structure (unlike a bin or silo) that will not empty completely by gravity, and has an unrestricted ground level opening for entry.

Entering grain storage structures. Bins, silos and tanks continue to be covered by the revised paragraph (g) of the standard. Flat storage structures, with no atmospheric hazards, that are entered at ground level through regular or larger-sized doorways or openings are covered in a new paragraph (h). Entries into flat storage structure at or above the level of the grain are covered by paragraph (g). Compliance officers will need to be aware of the differing requirements of these two paragraphs. For example, in paragraph 1910.272(g), the flat storage exception applies to the storage structure and not the entire facility.

Note that in both paragraphs, situations are anticipated in which employees will walk on the grain. A distinction is made between walking on the grain and walking down the grain [e.g., for the purpose of eliminating bridging or moving it toward an auger or other removal mechanism.] Please note that "walking down grain" and similar practices are prohibited (1910.272(g)(1)(iv) and (h)(2)(i)). Requirements for the use of lifelines and other equipment are specified, as are limited, exceptional circmstances in which the use of alternative means of protection is permitted.

Walking on the grain has been demonstrated to be a source of hazards to workers; we therefore require that, where alternatives to lifeline and harness protections are used, employers take positive steps to verify conditions in the grain storage structure before workers are allowed to enter and walk on the grain. Employers must not allow employees to walk or work on the surface of the grain until the employer has verified that there is no bridging condition, pocket or void space below the surface of the grain to cause flow, avalanching, collapsing or sliding, or that the depth of the grain is not sufficient to present an engulfment hazard, or the employer can demonstrate that the employee is standing on a surface which does not present an engulfment hazard. In addition, draw-off equipment and draw-off openings must be shut down and locked or tagged out. For example, an employee who is standing on the floor of the structure, or on a platform or catwalk will not be exposed to engulfment, if that employee is sufficiently far away from areas where grain is being drawn from storage and all reclaim equipment which could disturb the grain is properly locked out. Verification may be by probe test, or an analysis of the grain depth based on use; it should also reference, as may be appropriate, documentation which indicates resolution of recent draw-off problems, moisture problems from open hatches, or other conditions which might indicate a hazard.

Revision of CPL 2-1.4B The "Grain Handling" directive will be revised to reflect changes in the standard, and policy developments which have emerged since its revision in 1991. Your questions and comments are solicited for inclusion in the new directive. Contact Alcmene Haloftis in the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance, on 202-219-8041 x119, or by fax on 202-219-5533.