Smith said prevention is essential. “Signs are not enough. Owners and managers must make safety a priority. No shortcuts should be allowed.”

The No. 1 key to preventing grain engulfment is not to enter a grain container. “Keep grain in good condition,” he notes. “Do not walk down the grain to make it flow. Prevent unauthorized entry, especially for children and untrained personnel.”

He added that placing more emphasis on OSHA-exempt facilities is important. “Almost 70 percent of incidents happen there,” he said.

Having a rescue plan in place is crucial. “Management and workers should practice it. Invest in personal safety equipment and know how to use it. Make certain it will hold up and that the facility will support it.

“Also, work with first responders in training activities. Involve them with employees.”

Smith said OSHA is taking a harder line on grain engulfment incidents. “After an August, 2010 fatal incident, an OSHA letter stated that the agency ‘will not tolerate non-compliance with the Grain Handling Facility Standard.’”

OSHA also noted that the “potential for criminal prosecution,” exists with grain bin incidents. “Enforcement has increased and the number of fines has gone up,” Smith said.

“The number of grain entrapment cases are increasing as are the number of high profile incidents — those involving more than one person. Consequently, OSHA is ramping up enforcement.”

As grain production has increased across the country, the number of entrapment incidents has also risen. More grain also spurred growth of on-farm storage facilities, increasing the number of exempt facilities and the opportunities for accidents.

Most cases occur in the Midwest, where more grain is grown. During that 1964 to 2010 survey period, Texas had 26 incidents.

Prevention, Smith said, must be the paramount goal. “Training is expanding,” he said, “but the need is growing.”

rsmith@farmpress.com

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