Learn & Live: Grain industry hazards lead to deaths, injuries each year
US Labor Department's OSHA working with Nebraska grain associations
to promote awareness of grain industry hazards
OMAHA, Neb. – Five seconds. That is how quickly a worker can become engulfed in flowing grain and be unable to get out.
Sixty seconds. That is how quickly a worker can be completely submerged in flowing grain. More than half of all grain engulfments result in death by suffocation.
In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfments, the highest number on record.
In the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62 percent, according to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana.
Record death and injuries in 2010, led the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reach out to agricultural and grain handling industries to find ways to prevent deaths and injuries. OSHA also developed a Local Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities focusing on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards. These include engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, "struck by," combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.
Since January 2012, the Omaha Area OSHA Office has conducted dozens of inspections in the grain industry, including the investigation of two tragic fatalities that occurred at grain handling facilities. One occurred in February 2012 at a flour and feed mill in Wauneta, Neb., when an employee died after being engulfed by feed pellets in a bin. The second occurred in January 2013 at a grain and field bean merchant wholesaler in Talmage when an employee was fatally injured after being struck by a truck.
"OSHA is working to change the ¿it won't happen to me' mindset," said Marcia Drumm, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Kansas City serving four Midwestern states. "Grain handling injuries and deaths, such an engulfment and dust explosions occur quickly, and may be prevented if employers follow proper safety procedures."
Suffocation can occur when a worker becomes buried by grain as they walk on moving grain or attempt to clear grain built up on the inside of a bin. Moving grain acts like "quicksand" and can bury a worker in seconds. "Bridged" grain and vertical piles of stored grain can also collapse unexpectedly if a worker stands on or near it. The behavior and weight of the grain make it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.
OSHA is working with the Nebraska Grain & Feed Association, Grain Elevator and Processing Society, Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers chapters as well as the Ag Coop Safety Directors of Nebraska, Nebraska Cooperative Council and Future Farmers of America to get the word out on prevention.
"OSHA is working with the grain and agricultural industries and the agricultural community to educate employers and workers about the six major hazards of the grain and feed industry," said Drumm. "Through training, decals, brochures, websites, and other means of information communication, we will continue to work to improve awareness of these hazards and the safety and health of workers on Nebraska farms and in grain handling facilities. We are committed to preventing the injuries and deaths that have been too frequent in the industry in recent years."
OSHA, the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois and the Illinois Grain Handling Safety Coalition have also developed a stop sign decal to adhere to grain bin doors using pictures and short phrases reminding entrants to lockout potentially hazardous equipment, stay clear of waist high grain, cover floor holes and to follow other best practices. Individuals or companies can email the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the decal, which is pictured above.
OSHA has also published information related to common grain industry hazards and abatement methods, proper bin entry techniques, sweep auger use, and many other grain related topics at www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html. OSHA's Grain Industry LEP is used in 25 states.
The National Grain Entrapment Prevention Initiative has also developed a flyer on grain bin safety: http://grainnet.com/pdf/Grain_Entrapment_Prevention.pdf*.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions exist for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.