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 https://www.osha.gov.

October 15, 1998

Mr. Jesse L. McDaniel, CSP
Team Leader, Risk Management
Countrymark Cooperative, Inc.
950 North Meridian Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-3909

Dear Mr. McDaniel:

This is a follow-up response to the interim letter that was sent to you on August 7, regarding the applicability of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Grain Handling Standard, 29 CFR 1910.272, with respect to Feed Mills.

Your letter indicates that your concerns are focused on the grain dust accumulations with regard to the 1/8 inch grain dust accumulation requirement as it relates specifically to feed mills. You inquired whether the term "grain elevators" was intentional for the 1/8 inch action level, or was the standard supposed to read "grain handling facilities."

Please note that the term grain elevators was intentional and the 1/8 inch action level does not apply to feed mills. Please find an explanation below.

During the rule making process for the Grain Handling Standard, §1910.272, it had come to OSHA's attention that feed mills typically use ingredients that are much less explosive than grain dust. Some of the ingredients are inert substances, such as limestone and bentonite. Other non-explosive and non-combustible ingredients include salt, dicalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate and trace minerals. Feed mills also use a large number of non-flammable liquid ingredients such as molasses, mineral oil and water soluble ingredients which further reduce the explosibility or combustibility of the grain and its dust generation potential. The pelleting process commonly used in feed manufacturing necessitates the inclusion of steam or water to the ingredients, further reducing the risk of explosion or fire. Raw bulk grain is only a small part of the total ingredient mix used in a feed mill. Soybean meal, animal by-products such as meat and bone meal, dehydrated alfalfa, corn gluten meal, beet pulp and sugar are just a few of the many ingredients used to produce livestock and poultry feed. All of these ingredients are significantly less explosive and combustible than grain dust.

One of the major differences between grain elevators and feed mills, is that most feed mills probably handle 25-50% grain, whereas grain elevators handle 100% grain. Grain elevators move grain and its component contaminants at speeds in the neighborhood of 40-50,000 bushels an hour where feed mills normally move 5-10,000 bushels per hour. Therefore grain elevators move much larger capacities at a much higher speed, and therefore, tend to generate more dust than feed mills.

It has also been found that mills have a considerably smaller risk of death and injury from explosions than grain elevators. OSHA's statistical findings indicated that to reflect these differences in operation and in the relative risks of fires and explosions, the application of the final standard is somewhat different for mills than it is for grain elevators. In conclusion, the final standard does not impose specific requirements on bucket elevators (process legs in mills); and although mills are required to have a written housekeeping program, the 1/8 inch action level for dust accumulations does not apply to feed mills.

Finally, you also inquired about the current OSHA directive, CPL 2-1.4C. Your letter indicated that the directive addresses inspections of Grain Handling Facilities, and states that SIC Code 2048, Prepared Feeds and Feed Ingredients for Animals and Fowls, Not Elsewhere Classified would be covered, and that it does exempt seed plants. In that same directive, it states that 1910.272(j)(1) is applicable to grain elevators and those mills specified at 29 CFR 1910.272(b)(1), although the standard, 1910.272(j)(2), applies only to grain elevators and not to processing or mill operations. You felt that this was contradictory. You stated, "If the risks and equipment involved are essentially the same, why would one be specifically exempted?" As discussed above, OSHA does not believe that the risks and equipment are essentially the same. Additionally, §1910.272(j)(1) does not contradict §1910.272(j)(2). All grain handling facilities must have a written housekeeping program (§1910.272(j)(1)), but only grain elevators must meet the 1/8 inch action level (§1910.272(j)(2)).

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. If you have questions regarding the preceding, please contact Alcmene Haloftis of my staff at 202-219-8031, ext. 119.


Richard E. Fairfax, Acting Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs