OSHA has launched a local emphasis program in Kansas aimed at reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the grain handling industry. Under the program, OSHA's Wichita Area Office will target establishments such as grain elevators and storage bins, rail car, milling, fertilizer, feed, chemical and farm machinery operations; and equipment repair and maintenance. Inspections will include hazard evaluations of grain handling including fall protection, engulfment and fire, explosions from combustible dust, noise, confined space and machine guarding.

The emphasis program is a response to workers being engulfed and suffocated in grain bins with increasing frequency in the grain handling industry. OSHA fined Cooperative Plus, Inc. $721,000 in August after a near tragedy last winter at its Burlington, Wis., facility when a worker in a storage bin was trapped in soybeans up to his chest in 25-degree weather. In the last 13 months, OSHA fined two grain handling facilities more than $3 million after separate incidents in which a 17-year-old who had just graduated from high school and a 52-year-old husband and father were engulfed and suffocated in grain storage containers.

To prevent future similar tragedies, OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels sent a letter to approximately 3,300 grain storage facilities across the country in August explaining the possible consequences of failing to comply with the Grain Handling Facility standard. "If any employee dies in a grain storage facility, in addition to any civil penalties proposed, OSHA will consider referring the incident to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution," Michaels said. OSHA's grain storage bins fact sheet on engulfment hazards was included with the letter.

Federal OSHA also has state-wide grain handling emphasis programs in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. OSHA's area offices in Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., and Omaha, Neb., also have similar programs. In addition, Indiana OSHA has its own state-run grain handling emphasis program.