Grain Engulfment Prevention

Posted by Matt Bushey in #YHSafetyTips, Apr 04, 2018

Stand Up for Grain Engulfment Prevention Week is this April 9-13. This is a time for employers to get involved in improving worker prevention, reduce injuries, and prevent fatalities from engulfment.

What is Grain Engulfment?

When a person becomes submerged in a grain bin or silo and cannot get out without assistance. This is extremely dangerous when the grain is moving down a shoot. This creates a funneling effect like quicksand, which can make rescuing extremely difficult and time sensitive.

Bridging is also a cause of engulfment. OSHA says, "Bridging" occurs when grain clumps together, because of moisture or mold, creating an empty space beneath the grain as it is released. Bridged grain resists the downward pull that normally moves loose grain to the bin outlet and rarely becomes hard enough to support a person. If a worker steps onto the bridge, it can cave in under the worker's weight, burying him or her in the empty space. Even if the grain flow is stopped before entering a bin, a worker could still be covered if they step onto a grain bridge and it caves in. As grain cascades down, the victim is covered with an "avalanche" of grain that traps and suffocates him or her. Standing under bridged grain is also hazardous because bridged grain can cave in unexpectedly and bury and suffocate the worker.

Workers under 16 years old are prohibited from entering confined spaces or environments, including grain storage structures. This change was the result of six separate documented cases 2010 of grain entrapments that involved workers under the age of 16. Five of the six incidents resulted in death. Multiple deaths in grain incidents happen because other workers attempt to rescue their coworkers and became trapped as well.

Rescuing a Worker

Rescuing a worker in grain requires a great deal more of force than that of pulling someone from water. One factor that water has is buoyancy, which is the force that causes ships and boats to float. A rescuers strength is not likely to be enough to pull a worker from the grain as the grain will resist the force applied to rescue the worker. Only pulling a worker out at the force required around the persons waist will result in at least a permanent spinal column injury. Rescuing requires making retaining walls in the grain around the worker trapped, and then removing the grain either by hand, grain vacuum, shovel or other equipment to extract the grain.

Grain Silo

Save Workers Lives, Follow These Measures Outlined by OSHA

  • De-energize (turn off) and disconnect, lockout and tag, or block off all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment that presents a danger, particularly grain-moving equipment as required by 1910.272(g)(1)(ii). Grain should not be emptied or moved into or out of the bin while workers are inside because it creates a suction that can pull the worker into the grain in seconds.
  • Prohibit and prevent workers from walking down grain and similar practices where walking on grain is intended to make it flow, required by 1910.272(g)(1)(iv).
  • Prohibit and prevent worker entry onto or below a bridging condition, or where grain is built up on the side of the bin, required by 1910.272(g)(6).
  • Train all workers for the specific hazardous work operations they are to perform when entering and working inside of grain bins, required by 1910.272(e).
  • Provide each worker entering a bin from a level at or above stored grain, or when a worker will walk or stand on stored grain, with a body harness. The body harness should have a lifeline that is positioned and is of sufficient length to prevent a worker from sinking further than waist-deep in grain, required by 1910.272(g)(2).
  • Provide workers with rescue equipment, such as winch systems, that are specifically suited for rescue from the bin, required by 1910.272(g)(4).
  • Station an observer who is equipped to provide assistance and perform rescue operations outside the bin, required by 1910.272(g)(3).
  • Ensure that communications (visual, voice or signal line) are maintained between the observer and the workers who entered the bin, as required by 1910.272(g)(3).
  • Test the air within a bin for oxygen content and the presence of hazardous gases before entry, required by 1910.272(g)(1)(iii).
  • Provide and continue ventilation until any unsafe atmospheric conditions are eliminated. If toxicity or oxygen deficiency cannot be eliminated, workers must wear appropriate respirators, required by 1910.272(g)(1)(iii) A and B.
  • Issue a permit each time a worker enters a bin, unless the employer is present during the entire entry operation. The permit must certify that the above precautions have been implemented before workers enter the bin, required by 1910.272(g)(1)(i).

Participate next week and Stand-Up for Grain Engulfment Prevention. Click here to get a certificate if you are participating in the event for the Grain Handling Industry.

Missed last week’s blog post on Concrete Safety? Click here to read it.

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