It’s often said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Perhaps in the grain industry a better analogy is a kernel of prevention is worth a bushel of cure, but however you look at it, safety experts and emergency responders close to the grain industry couldn’t agree more.
Preparing for natural disasters, explosions and other emergencies should rank among facility managers’ highest priorities — right up there with boosting efficiency, meeting regulatory compliance and increasing customer satisfaction. But occasionally, conducting the training required to prepare an entire staff for a catastrophic event is overtaken by production obligations and busy schedules.
Even facilities with established safety programs may find they could do more to enhance their effectiveness, so leading grain industry safety experts sat down with Feed & Grain to share their best emergency preparedness tips with facility managers.
One of the grain industry’s leading resources in emergency response and preparedness is the Safety and Technical Rescue Association (SATRA). The nonprofit organization, established in 1990, provides training and organizational support for local, state and international search and rescue teams through SATRA’s training group.
Team members are trained on rope rescue, confined space, wilderness and disaster rescue, hazardous materials management, medical training, silo rescue and more. George Lovell, COO of SATRA, also works as a firefighter, and says the most effective safety programs depend on three principles:
- A proactive, preventive culture. Teach employees not only how to respond to emergencies, but how to identify a potentially hazardous situation and notify management before it occurs. Additionally, emphasize the importance of routine accident-prevention activities, such as housekeeping, lockout tag-out and working in pairs.
- A properly trained workforce. Designate a manager to oversee and document that training occurs upon new employee orientation and continues throughout their employment.
- An established relationship with first responders. The nearest fire department may not always be the best equipped in your area to conduct a rescue or put out a grain fire. Identify a first responder team that is properly trained in handling situations specific to the grain industry and arrange to have them regularly visit the facility.
SATRA has developed a series of checklists specific to the grain industry that elaborate on these principles (See sidebar: Grain Industry Check List, pg. 20.), prescribing what employees and first responders must be trained on, as well as which proactive measures are the most crucial in a grain or feed facility.
Wayne Bauer, director of safety and security of Star of the West Milling in Frankenmuth, MI, suggests a fourth crucial safety principle: written safety policies. Written policies help ensure that every employee is trained to meet the same requirements — and most importantly — without any gray area or room for interpretation.
“Write clear safety policies,” says Bauer. “This could involve up to 35 to 50 separate policies for feed mills and/or grain handling facilities and they must include what you expect from your employees and why. A good place to start is with the 12 to 14 basic issues identified in OSHA’s Grain Handling Standards.”
OSHA standards cover areas such as bin entry, grain dust, hazardous chemicals and lifeline equipment, but Bauer suggests going further to include policies on smoking on-site, use of ladders, safety rules for site visitors, site security and stairway cleanliness, among others.
“If you’re only going to cover the basics you might have a dozen policies, but if you’re going to influence a safety culture, you should cover nearly every aspect of your facility with a safety policy,” says Bauer.
Reminding employees of your policies via formal and informal training are crucial pieces of reinforcing a proactive safety culture.