Learn & Live: Grain industry hazards lead to deaths, injuries each year
US Labor Department's OSHA working together with Kansas agricultural industry
to promote awareness of grain industry hazards
WICHITA, Kan. – 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.
In 2012, six fatalities and two serious injuries occurred when combustible grain dust exploded at a facility in Atchison. Three Kansas workers were also fatality injured in recent years including two who died after falling from grain bins in Liberal in October 2010 and Rozel in June 2011. Additionally, one worker died from exposure to an herbicide at a grain handling facility in Cairo in June 2011.
In recent years, the Wichita area OSHA office has also conducted dozens of inspections at grain handling facilities to educate employers and workers on these unique hazards.
"OSHA is working hard to change the 'it won't happen to me' mindset," said Marcia Drumm, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo., for four Midwestern states. "Familiarity with the procedures can lead to complacency. Employers and workers need to be mindful that these accidents can occur in seconds. Grain handling injuries and deaths may be prevented with proper housekeeping and by following recommended 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.
At the request of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association OSHA representatives have spoken on grain industry safety at the Annual Kansas Agri-Business Expo the past three years. In addition, OSHA provides speakers at local Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association events around the state. OSHA has also spoken at the Kansas Safety and Health Conference, Advanced Feed Manufacturing Feed Safety Course at Kansas State University in Manhattan and the Great Plains Chapter of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society.
"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 Kansas 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."
Kansas State University was awarded a U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration Susan Harwood Training Grant Program for the development of targeted training to educate workers and employers on how to recognize combustible dust and explosion hazards in grain handling facilities.
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 Bin 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.