Deaths of Grain Elevator Workers Worries OSHA

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Friday, August 19, 2011

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reminding owners of grain storage facilities that not taking the safety of their workers seriously can have tragic consequences. According to a recent study conducted at Purdue University, 26 grain elevator workers were killed and 51 injured in workplace accidents in 2010, the worst figures on record in the U.S.

Grain storage is big business in Missouri, but it is considered a “high hazard industry” by OSHA, which recently issued a hazard alert to highlight the potential risks. We have all heard stories of workers becoming trapped in the huge piles of raw grains such as corn, wheat or oats. The workers can quickly sink into the grain, which often acts like quicksand, drawing people down and engulfing them in the material. According to Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, suffocation from “drowning” in such a horrible way is the leading cause of death at grain storage facilities.

Sadly, many workers have died trying to rescue co-workers who have become trapped in the grain. The workers fall or are pulled in, increasing the tragedy of the incident. Other potentially fatal hazards at grain elevators include a lack of oxygen or buildup or toxic air in the facility, which can cause suffocation.

As Dr. Michaels said, most grain elevator worker deaths and injuries are preventable if employers take proper precautions. Recommended safety measures include providing workers with protective and rescue equipment, shutting off equipment that is presenting a danger, and keeping an observer outside the facility who can act in case of an accident.

Source: OSHA, “OSHA issues hazard alerts on dangers of worker engulfment and suffocation in grain bins,” Aug. 17, 2011

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