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Ag industry groups want OSHA to end emphasis on grain processing

Many farms in New Jersey and around the country have grain handling facilities. After a spike in employee fatalities in these operations in 2010, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration focused outreach and inspections on operators in the Midwest and Great Plains. Although 2016 saw an increase in entrapment incidents in which workers become engulfed by grain in a silo, an attorney representing the grain industry said that commercial operators understand the need for worker safety and that OSHA should switch focus to educating small farm operators. He cited a study from Purdue University that showed most accidents happened at small farms with 10 or fewer workers.

These small operations are generally exempt from many OSHA regulations. Often an injury or death results when a worker enters a silo to unclog machinery. The Purdue study identified another 42 incidents at processors in 2016. Those accidents caused the deaths of 22 people.

Although small operations are often exempt from OSHA inspections unless a worker complaint or fatal injury draws attention, they could improve safety by following OSHA guidelines for grain processors. The agency considers a silo a confined space. A worker inside the silo should be attached to a tether in case of a fall, and a co-worker should be monitoring the activity.

When workplace accidents occur, people who are hurt on the job should report the accident to the employer. This report is a necessary prelude to applying for workers' compensation benefits. In some situations, a worker might benefit from legal representation during the process.

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