The Occupational Safety and Health Organization wants Missouri’s grain handling industry to be vigilant in stemming the tide of tragedies.
More than half of all workers “engulfed” in grain die in 60 seconds from suffocation. Since January, there have been two grain-handling deaths and four preventable incidents in Kansas and Nebraska.
Brian Drake with OSHA’s Kansas City office notes workers face numerous dangers. “The hazards of asphyxiation when going into the grain bins, or going into the pits” said Drake. (That’s) why it’s so important to test the atmosphere before the employees go in there to make sure there’s not a lack of oxygen, or other chemicals that might cause their demise.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Organization is currently investigating six grain industry fatalities and incidents. One involved a 42-year-old worker in Prosser, Nebraska, who suffered fatal injuries caused by an operating auger as he drew grain from a bin.
In May of this year, a 53-year-old man working in West Point, Nebraska suffered severe injuries in a grain bin when a wall of corn product collapsed and engulfed him. OSHA says died of his injuries two days later.
Drake says employers are responsible for making conditions as safe as possible. “It’s their responsibility to ensure that employees, when they’re going into those bins, that they’re aware of the hazards of engulfment, they’re aware that the augers are not supposed to be running when they go in there. And that they’re aware that when they go in there and the augers are running, and grain is being pulled down into the auger underneath their feet, that they can be sucked down in there.”
Drake contends the industry’s hazards can be avoided. “All of these incidents can be prevented. I say incident, and not accident, because they’re not accidents. An accident is something that you can’t prevent. And these fatalities in this industry, as in any industry, can be prevented.”
Grain handling plays an important role in agriculture, which is the number-one industry in Missouri. There have been no industry related deaths in Missouri in 2016.