“You can’t assume every new employee comes to [you] with any training — there’s just too much at stake — so every employee needs to have some sort of conditioning and safety training within the first few days of their employment,” Jones explains.
While accidents do happen, it is the responsibility of the elevator to provide every opportunity to prevent it from happening. As elevators seek out training programs for their employees, there are five fundamental principles of engulfment prevention that can be stressed immediately:
1. Keep people out of the bins
Grain belongs in bins; people do not. “People get pretty cavalier about getting in and out of bins — especially if they’ve been doing it their entire career,” Bauer says. He suggests adopting a zero-entry mentality.
Don’t enter the bin unless absolutely necessary. Bauer and Jones suggest elevators take a serious look at their grain conditioning and reclaim systems to combat this necessity.
“Grain quality preservation and better equipment are the answer,” Jones says. “The answer is not to climb into the bottom of the bin and start poking around — which unfortunately seems to be the standard method right now.”
2. Never enter a bin alone
Should an individual need to enter a bin, never under any circumstance should that person work alone.
“Whether it’s a commercial operation or a farm, it is imperative for an individual to work with an observer or an attendant,” Baker says.
3. Adequate hands-on training
The best way to become familiar with safety and rescue equipment is by working with the equipment firsthand.
“Most facilities need to take training more seriously,” Bauer says. “Many do not provide appropriate hands-on training for the bin entrants and the observers.”
He suggests training sessions consist of both classroom and in-the-field instruction.
To ensure an understanding of the safety equipment during the hands-on portion of training, he suggests employees be required to demonstrate how to use the equipment.
“Until the employee can demonstrate they are comfortable with handling equipment and using techniques — and know what’s expected of them should a situation develop — you haven’t really done training yet,” Bauer says.
4. Follow entry permit
Take the appropriate amount of time to thoroughly complete OSHA’s entry permits, providing a firm assessment of the potential hazards. Who is your emergency response group? Make sure you have listed a capable emergency response group to assist you. Do not list an off-site group who has never been to your facility.
“There should have been some hands-on training before they are listed on the entry permit,” Bauer says. “You have to take the time to show [the local fire department] the spaces you’re dealing with so they can become familiar with your equipment and the facility.”
Also, whoever is listed on the permit needs to be an agency that can respond in a timely manner, and is trained and equipped properly to perform in that kind of an emergency.
“You can’t just call 911,” Bauer says. “In rural America, 85% to 90% of communities rely on local volunteer fire departments. You are responsible for conducting training with them so they understand how to deal with an incident.”
5. Diligently practice
If something needs to be addressed in the bin, make sure the reclaim systems have been shut down prior to entering.
Bauer concludes: “Usually when there are fatalities, people have ignored three, four — sometimes five — of these guidelines; and they paid the price by choosing to take shortcuts in the standard operating procedures and safety guidelines.”
TRAINING AND EDUCATION
Over the last two years grain entrapment and rescue training has gained momentum due in part to the investments being made by a coalition of industry stakeholders, a group comprised of steel bin manufacturers, insurance companies, academia and emergency rescue training groups.
“The movement is steadily growing,” Bauer says. “It’s getting more focused on what are the issues and why these incidents are growing in frequency.”
Baker notes that many elevators who have not experienced an incident are being proactive in enlisting the services of State Line Rescue to promote training and awareness.