The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to get serious about grain safety. One reason has to be a research study by Purdue University reporting that there have been more than 900 grain engulfment cases over a 50 year period, and that the fatality rate for those cases was about 62 percent. That may not seem like a lot, but the problem seems to get worse. In 2010 alone, a record 26 U.S. workers were reported killed after being engulfed by grain and suffocated.
It’s a serious problem, because it happens to people who work around grain all of the time. It only takes five seconds for a worker to become submerged in flowing grain to the point that one is unable to get out. And in most cases, the worker will be completely submerged by the grain, which acts like “quicksand,” and will more often than not result in death by suffocation. The unsteady behavior and weight of the grain make it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.
That’s why OSHA has decided to conduct outreach to the agriculture industry, in order to implement ways to prevent grain deaths and injuries. The agency also created a Local Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities focusing on the six major hazards in the grain and feed industry, including falls, auger entanglement, being struck by items, electrocution, buildups of combustible dust and, of course, engulfment.
The goal of the OSHA initiative is to change the mindset that many workers have, that “it won’t happen to me.” They are working with states to develop new programs and better training to make things safer. In the state of Illinois, for example, they have developed a grain bin entry permit system, so that only properly trained workers can gain entry. IN addition, they have created training programs, signage, brochures and other methods for imparting information, in order to improve hazard awareness.
Employers can get any necessary training materials from the Grain Handling Safety Coalition either for free or very cheap. The materials encompass five different safety topics including an overview of grain storage safety, grain bin entry, confined space hazards, entanglement, and fall hazards.
It’s encouraging that OSHA is taking a proactive stance with regard to safety in grain bins and silos, but more needs to be done at the Texas state level, as well. If you or a loved one have were seriously injured or killed while working with grain, please contact the Texas Workplace Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible for a free consultation, in order to protect your rights. Call (210) 960-3939 to speak with a Texas On the Job Accident attorney.