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Wet weather makes grain-bin work even more risky, OSHA says in alert

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Washington — Workers inside grain bins are at increased risk of engulfment when weather conditions are wet, OSHA warns in a recently released safety alert.

When stored, grains with high moisture content can bridge or clump together. When a worker steps onto a bridge to loosen the grain, it can collapse under the weight and lead to an avalanche of grain and the engulfment of the worker.

In its 2018 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities report, the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program documented 30 grain entrapments, which included 15 deaths – the fifth highest total recorded since 2010. The program identified 23 total cases in the previous year’s report.

To prevent engulfments, OSHA recommends:

  • Never walking on grain to make it flow
  • Using a rod or vibration system to break up clumped grain from a safe location outside the bin
  • Training workers and providing them with body harnesses with an attached lifeline and other rescue equipment
  • Disconnecting, locking out and tagging out machinery, as well as blocking off all powered equipment, especially grain-moving equipment such as augers
  • Testing the air inside the bin before entering to ensure enough oxygen is present and no toxic or flammable gases are detected
  • Having a rescue-trained observer outside the bin who is in constant contact with the worker inside

OSHA encourages small to medium-sized businesses to use the agency’s free, confidential On-Site Consultation Program for guidance on grain bin safety.

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