As Hoosier farm workers prepare for this year’s harvest, the Indiana Department of Labor reminds employers and employees about grain handling facility hazards and how to prevent occupational injuries and fatalities.
On July 10, 2014 a 9-year-old boy died after falling into a grain bin in Lancaster, Wis., underscoring the dangerous conditions of grain facilities. In June 2013 a Hoosier farm worker in LaPorte County was killed in a grain bin accident. And in April of this year a Darlington resident was severely injured in a grain bin accident.
Grain bins across the U.S. have killed more than 180 people and injured more than 675 since 1980. Grain dust is highly flammable and is the number one cause of grain bin explosions.
“The safety of our farm workers is of paramount importance to our Indiana agriculture industry,” said Commissioner Rick J. Ruble. “Grain handling facilities are extremely dangerous, and workers must recognize the dangers and take all necessary precautions.”
Employees working in or near grain handling facilities should never work alone because they are exposed to significant occupational safety and health hazards including falls, electrocution, engulfment, auger entanglement and dust explosions. Working with a partner ensures help is always nearby.
Additionally, employers and employees can reduce the likelihood of worker injury, illness or death by taking the following precautions:
• Prevent falls: Provide all employees with a body harness and lifeline, or a boatswains chair, and ensure it is properly secured before entering a grain bin.
• Prevent electrocution and auger entanglement: Before grain bin or silo entry, shut down and lock out all equipment power sources. Station an observer outside the bin or silo to continuously monitor and track the employee inside the bin.
• Prevent engulfment: Prohibit employees from walking-down the grain or using similar practices to make the grain flow. Prohibit entry into bins or silos underneath a bridging condition or where there is a build-up of grain products on side walls that could shift and bury a worker.
• Prevent dust explosions: Prior to entry, test the air within a bin or silo for the presence of combustible and toxic gases and make sure there is sufficient oxygen for safe entry.
Employers and employees are strongly encouraged to learn about safe grain handling procedures and take the necessary precautions. To learn more about safe grain handling practices click here.
For questions about worker safety and health, contact INSafe, the Indiana onsite OSHA consultation program, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 232-2688.