WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on June 18 and 19 several programs with regional groups to prevent deaths and injuries in the agricultural and grain handling industries.
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%, according to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana.
Record death and injuries in 2010, led OSHA to reach out to the 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.
"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 Ohio, OSHA has worked with the Ohio State University (OSU) to develop a grain safety training session as part of the 2012 OSU/OSHA Safety Day on Grain Safety and plans to do a presentation for the Grain Elevator and Processing Society later this year.
The state had two recent engulfment deaths on family farms in Milan and in Clark County near Springfield. The most recent death occurred May 28. Neither farm is under OSHA jurisdiction as they employ 10 or less individuals.
In Illinois, OSHA and the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois have formed a state-wide alliance to get the word out on prevention. A grain bin entry permit has been developed to aid those
working in and around bins to identify and control potential hazards.
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 email@example.com to request the decal.
In addition, the University of Illinois was awarded an OSHA Susan Harwood Training Grant Program and has partnered with the Grain Handling Safety Coalition for the development of training materials and outreach to educate workers and employers on how to recognize, avoid and prevent safety and health hazards in grain bins.
The Grain Handling Safety Coalition 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.
In Wisconsin, OSHA and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association entered into an alliance in 2012. The WABA represents more than 320 members engaged in agricultural businesses across the state. As part of the alliance, OSHA and WABA representatives meet quarterly to discuss projects to educate and inform employers on grain handling and other work place safety topics. To date, webinars have been held discussing confined space entry, fall hazards, as well as engulfment and other grain handling safety concerns.
The University of Wisconsin Extension's Agricultural Safety Specialist and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin have also agreed to include information on grain handling safety in their newsletter and on their websites and information has been provided to agricultural cooperatives and agricultural business instructors at state technical colleges and insurance companies to increase awareness of grain handling safety.
One worker was killed in Wisconsin in a grain engulfment in Milton, in April. Another was injured in 2010 in Burlington, when he became engulfed in soybeans.
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.
"OSHA is working 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," said Walters. "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 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."
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