Real Stories

Real Stories describe actual cases in which young workers were injured or killed at work. These cases are taken from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) website and OSHA inspection data.


Don't Let It Happen to You!

Employers are responsible for the safety of their workplaces and must provide workers with necessary training and personal protective equipment. Employers must have a plan for workplace emergencies and have medical services or first aid supplies available.




Suffocated in a Grain Silo

Two young workers (ages 14 and 19) were killed at a grain storage facility in the Midwest when they were sent into a grain bin to “walk down the corn.” The grain bin was being emptied, and the workers’ task was to break up clumps by walking on them to make the corn flow out of the bin. The workers were not provided safety harnesses, and the machinery used for evacuating the grain was running. The suction created by the flowing grain pulled them in like quicksand and suffocated them. Workers should never be inside a grain bin when it is being emptied out, because a sinkhole can form and pull down the worker in a matter of seconds. OSHA standards prohibit this dangerous practice. This company ignored that rule as well as other protective safety requirements. In addition, child labor laws made it illegal for this company to employ a 14-year-old to work in a grain silo.

To prevent this, employers must:

  • Turn off, disconnect and lock out all powered equipment associated with the bin that poses a danger to employees inside the grain structure, including augers used to help move the grain, so that the grain is not being emptied or moving out or into the bin [1910.272(g)(1)(ii)]. Standing on moving grain is deadly; the grain can act like quicksand and bury a worker very quickly. Moving grain out of a bin creates a suction that can swiftly pull and bury any workers who are in the bin.
  • Prohibit walking down grain and similar practices where an employee walks on grain to make it flow [1910.272(g)(1)(iv)].
  • Provide each worker entering a bin from a level at or above stored grain, or when a worker will walk or stand on stored grain, with a body harness. The body harness should have a lifeline that is positioned and is of sufficient length to prevent a worker from sinking further than waist-deep in grain [1910.272(g)(2)].
  • Provide an observer stationed outside the bin or silo being entered by an employee and maintain communication between the observer and the employee who enters. Ensure the observer is equipped to provide assistance [1910.272(g)(3)].
  • Prohibit workers from entry into bins or silos underneath a bridging condition, or where a build-up of grain products on the sides could fall and bury them [1910.272(g)(6)].
  • Provide training about engulfment and mechanical hazards to employees assigned special tasks such as bin entry [1910.272(e)(2)].
  • Test the air within a bin or silo prior to entry for the presence of combustible and toxic gases, and to determine if there is sufficient oxygen [1910.272(g)(1)(iii)].
  • Provide and continue ventilation until any unsafe atmospheric conditions are eliminated. If toxicity or oxygen deficiency cannot be eliminated, workers must wear appropriate respirators [1910.272(g)(1)(iii) A and B].
  • Ensure a permit is issued for each instance a worker enters a bin or silo, certifying that the precautions listed above have been implemented [1910.272(g)(1)(i)].

For more information, see:

OSHA Regional News Release, November 23, 2009

29 CFR 1910.272, OSHAs Grain Handling Standard

OSHAs Grain Handling Facilities Safety and Health Topics Page

OSHAs Hazard Alert: Dangers of Engulfment and Suffocation in Grain Bins


 

 



Caught in a Mortar Mixer

An 18-year-old worker died after becoming entangled in a portable mortar mixer at a residential construction site. The victim was cleaning the mixer at the end of his shift to prepare it for the following day. A painter working near the victim heard yells for help and saw the victim’s arm stuck in the machine and his body being pulled into the rotating mixer paddles. He ran to the mixer and attempted to turn it off, but could not disengage the gears, so he yelled for help. A co-worker heard the commotion, ran to the machine and shut it off. Emergency medical services was called and responded within minutes. Rescue workers dismantled the drive mechanism to reverse the mixing paddles and extricate the worker. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Workers must be trained in safety procedures. A safety procedure that applies to this case is “lockout/tagout,” which requires turning off and disconnecting machinery or equipment from its energy source(s) before performing service or maintenance. In this example, the worker died when he was pulled into a mortar mixer that was actively operating and not locked out.

To prevent this, employers must:

  • Ensure that equipment is turned off and disconnected from its energy sources before cleaning or maintenance.
  • Train employees in the recognition and control of hazards.
  • Ensure machine and equipment guards remain in place.
  • Establish lockout/tagout procedures to guard workers from the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
  • Ensure that all warning labels on the equipment are clearly visible and equipment is properly maintained.
  • Assign safety responsibilities to a competent person at each job site with the authority to enforce safety requirements and take prompt measures to correct unsafe situations.

For more information, see:

Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)

29 CFR 1926.702, OSHA’s Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, Concrete and Masonry (includes 1926.702(j), Lockout/Tagout Procedures)

OSHA’s Construction eTool

Concrete and Concrete ProductsManufacturing and Construction Safety and Health Topics Page


 

 



Pool Manager Electrocuted

A 17-year-old assistant pool manager was electrocuted when she contacted an ungrounded electric motor. She was performing her work duty of maintaining the pH level of the swimming pool by adding soda ash to the water. Standing barefoot on the wet concrete floor of the pump room, she filled the plastic drum with water, plugged in the mixing motor and placed the motor switch in the on position. In the process of adding soda ash to the drum, she accidentally contacted the energized mixing motor with her left hand and created a path to ground for the electrical current. She was electrocuted and died.

To prevent this, employers must:

  • Maintain all equipment in safe operating condition. Employers should routinely inspect and repair or replace equipment that is faulty, damaged or presents a safety hazard. In this case, the mixing motor was old and in poor condition with a faulty electrical ground. An electrical supply cord with the grounding pin intact may have prevented this fatality.
  • Maintain electrical circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). In this case, the GFCI was not properly wired and functioning. A properly wired and functioning GFCI could have sensed the faulty electrical ground condition and de-energized the circuit, thereby preventing the fatality.
  • Keep the workplace free of safety hazards. Electrical equipment should not be installed in rooms that do not have adequate drainage to prevent water accumulation during normal operation or filter maintenance. In this case, the employer should have ensured adequate drainage of the pump room to avoid water accumulating on the floor and contributing to the electrocution hazard. Also, all employees entering the pump room should wear insulated boots/shoes. Had the floor been dry and had the victim been wearing insulated boots or shoes, this fatality might have been prevented.

For more information, see:

29 CFR 1910.303, Electrical, General

29 CFR 1910.306, Electrical, Specific Purpose Equipment and Installations

29 CFR 1910.307, Electrical, Hazardous (Classified) Locations

OSHAs Electrical Safety and Health Topics Page


 

 



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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency of the Department of Labor (DOL) that protects workers from dangers on the job that can cause injuries or illnesses. OSHA is here to help you. Call us on our toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or TTY 1-877-889-5627 to get answers to your questions, or to ask OSHA to inspect your workplace if you think there is a serious hazard. You can also submit a question online. To file a confidential complaint about workplace hazards, visit our How to File a Complaint page for instructions.