Risk Awareness: Hazards in Grain Handling Facilities
There is danger to be found on every worksite, including agricultural facilities. Over the last 35 years there have been more than 180 fatalities and 675 injuries associated with grain dust explosions. To help prevent deadly explosions, OSHA requires grain dust and all ignition sources to be controlled in grain elevators.
Hazardous gases, suffocation and engulfment are also serious concerns for agricultural workers. OSHA advises grain workers to minimize their exposure to harmful gas emitted from either spoiling grain or fumigation (pesticides).
Exposure to harmful fumigants can cause:
- Permanent central nervous system damage
- Heart and vascular disease
- Lung edema
A documented trend, suffocation by engulfment is one of the leading causes of death in grain bin-related accidents. In 2010, 51 workers were engulfed inside grain bins; 26 of these workers died.
OSHA offers several best practices when entering grain storage bins:
- Turn off and lock out all powered equipment to prevent grain flow
- Prohibit walking down grain and similar actions used to increase grain flow
- Provide the proper personal protective equipment
- Appoint an observer to be stationed outside the grain bin
- Test the air inside the bin for hazardous gases and ensure sufficient oxygen levels
- Obtain a permit certifying the proper steps have been taken to ensure a safe work environment
Additional resources and a fact sheet on preventing grain bin incidents can be found below.