Presented ToStand-up for Grain Engulfment Prevention Week
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Acting Assistant Secretary
Stand-up for Grain Engulfment Prevention Week
Monday, March 25, 2019
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to participate in this year’s Stand-Up to Prevent Grain Engulfment kickoff event.
I’d like to thank Asmark for hosting this event, and the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) for coordinating the activities for the Stand-up for Grain Engulfment Prevention Week.
I also want to thank the National Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS), the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA), the Grain Handling Safety Association, the University of Texas –Arlington, Grain Journal Magazine, and the state of Illinois for their support.
I have the honor of working every day with over a thousand professionals committed to worker safety. Several of them are here today from OSHA’s Chicago, Kansas City, and Peoria offices; and the Illinois and Wisconsin consultation offices. I want to take a moment to thank them for their dedication to public service.
Most importantly, I want to thank those of you in attendance today for valuing the safety and lives of workers. OSHA appreciates the commitment of everyone here today from the grain industry, the training and education community, and our government partners to prevent grain engulfment. Without your hard work and commitment, the shared mission to keep workers safe, would not be possible.
This is the third year we have come together for this important initiative. Last year’s event reached more than 8,000 workers with over 3,000 hours of training provided. Through these events, the message of grain engulfment prevention is reaching workers who may otherwise never hear this vital message.
Still, despite these efforts, too many workers are injured or lose their lives in preventable grain engulfments every year. “According to the latest data available from Purdue University, there were 23 documented grain engulfment incidents in 2017, including 11 that resulted in fatalities.”
Participating in this week’s events is an important way to start a new growing season. Highlighting and emphasizing how to prevent engulfment is time well spent, and could save a worker’s life.
Suffocation is a leading cause of death in grain storage bins. A matter of seconds is all it takes for flowing grain to engulf and trap a worker. Based on the average flow rate for grain, a 6-foot tall worker can be covered in just 11 seconds. In less than 60 seconds, someone can become submerged and in serious danger of death by suffocation. One minute is all it takes to change everything.
So, we must encourage workers and employers to be vigilant at all times – beyond today and this week. Safety doesn’t start when we show up to a stand-up or a campaign kickoff event, and it certainly cannot stop when we leave here today. Safety must start on day one and be a continuous process. It starts with a first step – whether that is a safety meeting, improvements in safety and health programs, participation in a stand-up, or one worker who takes five seconds to think about the next step they are going to take.
OSHA welcomes all grain industry stakeholders to join this effort to emphasize worker protection and ways to reduce injuries and prevent fatalities from engulfment.
We will measure the success of this week by the number of workers reached and the number of training hours provided – because those are numbers we can tally. However, the true success of this week will be a statistic that we’ll never know – the true success of this week will be if we can save just one life, and prevent just one worker from becoming just another terrible statistic.
Together we can make a difference and save lives. Let’s do all that we can to send every worker home safe and healthy each and every day.