With the recent increase in fatalities and injuries attributable to engulfment of employees and contractors in grain bins -- even though the majority of these incidents historically occur in farm bins -- the NGFA is reminding members about common entrapment hazards, applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and available NGFA training materials that managers and supervisors can use to help prevent future incidents.
Applicable OSHA Regulations: First and foremost, a worker should not enter a grain storage unit unless absolutely necessary. But if you find it necessary to have employees enter a bin, silo or tank, follow the applicable practices found in OSHA's grain handling facilities standard [29 CFR 1910.272], which took effect in 1988, to help minimize the risk. The OSHA standard includes requirements for employers to:
- issue written permits before entry occurs, unless the employer or its representative is present during the entire operation;
- disconnect, lock-out and tag all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment feeding or emptying the structure that presents a danger to persons while inside bins, silos or tanks;
- test the atmosphere within a bin, silo or tank for the presence of combustible gases, vapors and toxic agents if the employer has reason to believe such hazards may be present. Testing for the presence of oxygen also is required unless there is continuous natural air movement or forced air ventilation before and during the time persons are inside the structure. Respirators are to be provided if ventilation cannot eliminate toxicity or oxygen deficiencies;
- equip persons entering bins, silos or tanks from the top with body harnesses with lifelines, or a boatswain's chair meeting OSHA requirements; and
- station an observer "equipped to provide assistance" and trained in rescue procedures outside the structure during entry operations. Employers also are required to provide equipment for rescue operations.
Training Materials Available from NGFA: The NGFA has several education and training materials available to assist:
- Your Safety Matters: Developed jointly by the NGFA and Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS), this new safety training DVD is geared specifically to employees of grain-handling, feed-manufacturing and grain-processing operations. The 30-minute DVD, which also is available in Spanish, addresses many safety-related issues, including confined space safety. Click here to access information on how to order.
- Grain Bin Safety on the Farm: The National Corn Growers Association and the National Grain and Feed Foundation (NGFF) -- the NGFA's research and education arm -- earlier this year recently unveiled a joint DVD project to promote grain bin safety on the farm. Click herefor more information.
- "Don’t Go With the Flow": Developed in 1998 by Purdue University under a contract with the NGFF this program reviews the hazards associated with flowing grain and the most common types of grain entrapments at commercial facilities. Click here for more information.