Grain bin deaths spur OSHA letter

In response to several cases of workers being trapped in grain bins, OSHA issued a letter Aug. 4 advising grain elevator operators to ensure workers do not enter storage facilities without proper equipment, precautions and training.

In July, two teens suffocated and a third worker was injured in Illinois after being engulfed in a grain bin they were trying to clear.

West Lafayette, IN-based Purdue University documented 38 grain entrapments in 2009, according to OSHA. Grain entrapments usually occur because of employer negligence, noncompliance with OSHA standards, or poor safety and health practices, the letter said.

OSHA advised workers to take several precautions, including:

  • Turn off and lock out all powered equipment associated with grain bins.
  • Prohibit "walking down" and similar practices in which an employee walks on grain to make it flow.
  • Give all employees a body harness with a secured lifeline or boatswain's chair.
  • Station an observer outside the bin or silo being entered by an employee.

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