New Jersey workers who work around grain storage facilities are at risk for grain engulfment, or being buried in grain. While commercial grain operations must comply with federal safety rules, private farms are not required to obey rules set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Experts say that awareness and training are the keys to safety for workers, which is why the week of April 9 to 13 was designated Stand-Up for Grain Engulfment Awareness Week 2018.
The project is a collaboration between OSHA, the National Grain and Feed Association and other grain industry organizations. An OSHA administrator said that the industry needs to share a message of grain engulfment prevention.
Grain engulfment can happen in seconds. According to OSHA, flowing grain is like quicksand, and a worker in a bin could be completely engulfed just 22 seconds after unloading starts.
Grain that is out of condition is the main reason for grain engulfment. Bridged grain is another safety concern as bridged or clumped grain creates empty spaces that can fill up in seconds, instantly engulfing a worker. Avalanche engulfment can happen to workers outside of a bin, when a pile of accumulated grain suddenly collapses.
While OSHA rules, such as requiring that a worker is wearing a body harness with a lifeline when entering a bin, must be followed by commercial operations, private farms do not have to follow these rules. Experts say that awareness and training are important for both commercial and farm grain operations to ensure worker safety.
When a worker survives a grain engulfment accident, workers compensation may provide compensation for lost wages and medical bills. When tragedy occurs and a worker is killed, family members who were financially dependent on the worker might be eligible for workers compensation benefits to cover lost wages and funeral expenses.