The Occupational Safety and Health Administration this month reminds grain farmers to take special care in avoiding grain handling injuries.
According to OSHA, in five seconds, a worker can become engulfed in flowing grain. In 60 seconds, a worker can be fully submerged in flowing grain.
"OSHA is working hard to change the 'it won't happen to me' mindset," said Nick Walters, OSHA Regional Administrator for six Midwestern states. "Grain handling injuries and deaths can be prevented if employers follow proper safety procedures."
In the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62%, according to researchers at Purdue University. In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfments, the highest number on record.
The record number of fatalities sparked OSHA's development of a local emphasis program for grain handling, which is focused on the feed industry's six major hazards. These include engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, "struck by," combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.
Suffocation, for example, is a significant risk of grain handling. Walters says it 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.
"Bridged" grain and vertical piles of stored grain can also collapse unexpectedly if a worker stands on or near it, he says, noting that the behavior and weight of the grain make it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.
Part of OSHA's effort to increase awareness of safety in grain handling and suffocation risks is a partnership with the Illinois Grain and Feed Association and Illinois Grain Handling Safety Coalition to develop training, decals, brochures and websites addressing the hazards to prevent future injuries.
The outreach includes 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. Anyone may obtain the deal by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Grain Handling Safety Coalition also can provide all the necessary training materials to train farmers, commercial grain handling employees, youth, rescue workers and more for free or at a very reduced rate.
There are five different safety topics available including an overview of grain handling and storage safety, grain bin entry as well as entanglement, fall and confined space hazards. GHSC also offers "Train the Trainer" courses for companies and communities to have a local resource for training. More information is available at www.grainsafety.org.
"This alliance is an opportunity for OSHA to work together with the grain and agricultural industries and the agricultural community to train employers and workers about the unique hazards of the grain and feed industry," Walters says. "We are committed to preventing the injuries and deaths that have been too frequent in the industry in recent years."