Hazards in the Grain Industry

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Since January 2016, Nebraska and Kansas’ grain-handling industry has had two fatalities and four preventable work-related incidents.

As Midwestern farmers reap this year’s harvest, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges industry employers and workers to fully implement safety and health programs including procedures for controlling hazardous energy, safe bin entry and housekeeping to avoid additional tragedies.

OSHA’s Grain Handling Industry Local Emphasis Program focuses on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.

In 2015, the industry reported 22 grain-entrapment cases nationwide. Of those, 4 percent occurred in commercial grain facilities and 82 percent occurred on farms exempt from OSHA compliance. In 2010, 51 workers found themselves engulfed by grain stored in bins, and 26 died – the highest number on record – researchers at Indiana’s Purdue University found. Purdue also reported that – of the more than 900 cases of grain engulfments reported since 1966 – 62 percent resulted in worker deaths.

In its effort to protect workers and educate the industry, OSHA has worked with leaders in the agri-business community to raise awareness of grain-handling hazards.

Most recently, Omaha Area Director Jeff Funke spoke at the National Grain and Feed Association and Assistant Area Director Darwin Craig spoke at the Nebraska Grain and Feed Association, both in August 2016.

“It is vital that we work with leaders, farmers and those employed in the grain and feed industry to increase awareness of hazards in the grain industry and discuss ways to protect workers on the job,” Funke said. “In our presentation to the NGFA, we were able to reach about 5,000 employees on a national level. Through education, training and common sense safety procedures we can prevent workplace injuries and deaths in the grain industry.”