OSHA Highlights Grain Handling Safety

Aug. 19, 2011
According to a Purdue University report, 26 workers died in 2010 in grain bin engulfments and 51 were entrapped overall, representing the most entrapments in one year since Purdue began keeping records in 1978. On Aug. 17, OSHA announced a new hazard alert that outlines the risks inherent in grain handling in an effort to better inform workers and employers of the hazards involved with this work.

The hazard alert explains the dangers in this industry, which include suffocation from engulfment and entrapment; fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation; falls from heights; and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment. OSHA also is releasing an illustrated wallet card as an abbreviated version of the bulletin. The wallet card highlights the precautions employers must take to ensure that workers are safe when entering storage bins.

Grain bins are used to store bulk raw agricultural commodities such as corn, wheat and oats. Workers entering bins can be engulfed and suffocate if they stand on moving or flowing grain, which pulls workers under. Workers also risk suffocation if they enter bins that don’t have enough oxygen or contain hazardous atmospheres. Incidents in grain bins often result in multiple deaths because workers attempt to rescue their coworkers and then become trapped themselves.

“Suffocation from engulfment is the leading cause of death in grain bins and the number of tragedies continues to climb,” said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels. “They can be avoided if owners and operators use well-known safety measures that are proven to prevent workers from being killed or seriously injured.”

The hazard alert lists the precautions that employers must take under OSHA’s Grain Handling Facility standard to protect workers:

· Disconnecting equipment that presents a danger;
· Prohibiting workers from walking on the grain to make it flow;
· Providing workers with personal protective and rescue equipment; and
· Requiring an observer outside the bin who can perform rescue operations.

View the hazard alert at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/hazard_alert.html. The wallet card can be downloaded as a PDF at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA_3329.pdf. For more information, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page on Grain Handling. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html.

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