OSHA Cites Grain Handling Facilities for Engulfment Hazards
Grain handling facilities receive, process, store and ship bulk raw agricultural goods like corn, wheat, oats and barley. Processing grain can put workers at risk for various hazards, including:
fire and explosions from grain dust accumulation
suffocation from being engulfed in grain bins
falls from significant heights
crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment
Moving grain can act like quicksand, pulling workers down as they attempt to walk across it or clear grain build up. Large amounts of grain can bury a worker in seconds, and without quick assistance, he or she could be engulfed and smothered.
Mechanical sweep augers are located inside grain bins to push grain toward an opening in the middle of the container. Workers are not allowed inside the bin while the sweep augers are operating, because the shifting grain could trap workers, putting them at risk for suffocation and death.
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has several safety procedures specifically designed for the grain industry and the unique hazards its workers face.
OSHA cited the Wilmington Sabina Farmers Exchange after receiving complaints that workers were entering grain bins while the sweep augers were operating. OSHA issued an additional citation after management failed to place an observer outside the grain bin to communicate with workers inside.
The facility was also cited for an improperly maintained electrical box, damaged cords and other faulty electrical equipment. When you consider that the processing plant also failed to develop a program to prevent grain dust accumulation, you realize that these workers were facing serious risks of a fire or explosion.
OSHA’s findings led it to inspect the company’s Sabina facility as well, where it found evidence of similar electrical violations and inadequate fall protection. Workers lacked guardrail protection along grain bins as well as access to ladder platforms.
At grain handling facilities, management should always work to minimize engulfment, fall, crushing and amputation hazards. Accidents could happen quickly, and workers could suffer serious injuries or death without proper protection.
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[Did You Know: In the last 35 years, there have been more than 500 explosions at grain handling facilities in the U.S.]
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