Grain, feed industry focus of OSHA program to reduce worker risk

Agricultural products like grain and feed are big business in Nebraska, and many workers are employed by grain elevators and other grain-handling sites. These workers are exposed to a variety of risks as they go about their jobs and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a program to focus attention on these workplaces in an effort to reduce worker injuries and deaths.

Among the hazards these workers face is the potential for suffocation after engulfment within a grain bin or elevator. Grain behaves like quicksand, and as workers struggle to free themselves, the movement of the grain causes them to sink. Compression from the weight of the grain can quickly lead to suffocation.

Workers should never enter a bin alone. Best practice would include the use of a safety harness. Additional workers should be present to immediately assist a worker who gets into trouble.

Other hazards include becoming caught in an auger, and OSHA is currently investigating the death of a worker in March at an elevator in Prosser. Grain handling facilities also face the omnipresent risk of an explosion from grain dust. Good housekeeping practices are essential to prevent buildups of dust that could explode and burn in the facility.

The OSHA program will proactively review randomly selected grain handling facilities throughout Nebraska, looking to uncover hazards and get employers to fix the problems before they result in an injured worker or worse, a fatal accident.

If you observe dangers or risks and your employer ignores them or refuses to address the problems, you should contact OSHA directly and request an inspection. In the last decade or so, OSHA investigated 25 incidents in these facilities and 19 involved fatalities.

Source, feednavigator.com, "OSHA project looks to make Nebraska feed, grain industry safer," Aerin Curtis, April 20, 2016

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