February 28, 2014

Farmers make grain bin safety a priority


gbswlogoThis week, the ag industry put a focus on grain handling safety with the marking of Grain Bin Safety Week.

We want to promote safety awareness because working in and around grain bins can be very dangerous. Flowing grain can completely engulf a worker in seconds.

Horizontally crusted grain is like a bridge and can collapse and immediately bury farmers walking across the top of it. The collapse of crusted grain on the side of a bin is like an avalanche that can break bones or bury workers.

People can suffocate with only 12 inches of grain covering them because the weight of the grain prevents movement. (View the the Nebraska Corn Board’s 2011 “CornsTALK” newsletter which featured still-relevant information about grain entrapment, including the types of engulfment and contributing factors.)

We want to encourage farmers to be diligent and train their family members and workers on the hazards of working in and around grain bins and discuss what to do should an accident occur.

The National Corn Growers Association has produced a video (watch here) on the subject in conjunction with the National Grain and Feed Foundation (related to the National Grain & Feed Association) that talks about the hazards of flowing and lodged grain. It also discusses how an engulfment can impact a family and farm operation.

The industry has even more reason to celebrate and create safety awareness this year as the Department of Labor's (DOL) decision to withdraw enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) small farm grain bin guidance. While OSHA's concern with grain bin safety was appreciated, improving farm safety is a collaborative, cooperative process that was not helped by OSHA's enforcement under the just-rescinded 2011 guidance document that was not consistent with the law.

This is important to Nebraska as recently, a Nebraska farmer with one non-family employee was assessed a fine of over $130-thousand dollars by OSHA

Bob Stallman, AFBF President, noted the issue had generated a good deal of concern both on the farm and in Congress, "Farm Bureau appreciates the efforts on this issue by the House Education and Workforce Committee, including Worker Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-Mich). We also commend Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) for coordinating bipartisan letters drawing attention to this important issue. We encourage DOL to reach out to farm groups to help develop additional farm safety programs. Preventative measures would better serve OSHA's and the farm community's shared goal of farm safety."

AFBF and Nebraska Farm Bureau are encouraging farmers to contact Senator Mike Johanns and Congressman Adrian Smith and thank them for their efforts in encouraging the DOL to withdraw enforcement of OSHA regulations on farm grain facilities.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is honoring Grain Bin Safety Week this year by echoing the importance of grain bin safety, and reminding its members of the organization’s training materials and upcoming safety seminar.

Each year, NGFA teams up with state grain associations and offers regional safety seminars. The next one is slated March 26 in Fargo, N.D., and is sponsored by NGFA, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, and South Dakota Grain and Feed Association. The seminar provides the tools needed by successful operations to comply with federal and state regulations. It will include an update on the status of several OSHA regulatory issues, an overview of key Grain Handling Standard components, NGFA guidance documents, and the revised OSHA Hazard
Communication Standard.

For further information, see the seminar schedule of events and registration form.

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