Three employees of Sabina Farmers Exchange Inc. in Wilmington, Ohio were found working inside a grain storage bin while a mechanical sweep auger, a machine used to push grain remaining at the bottom of a storage bin toward the bin's opening, was operating. This exposed the workers to severe injury and death by being engulfed in flowing grain. OSHA has cited the company for three repeat and six serious safety violations at the company's grain bins in Wilmington and Sabina, with proposed penalties of $50,051.
Only takes 60 seconds
"A worker can be completely submerged in flowing grain within 60 seconds. More than half of all grain engulfments result in death by suffocation. Allowing workers to move grain while a sweep auger is running can cause the worker to become entangled in this dangerous equipment and submerged in the flowing grain," said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati. "Grain bin operators have a responsibility to protect their workers by taking the necessary steps to turn off all moving equipment before allowing workers to enter grain bins, if they must."
Grain can collapse without warning
Suffocation can occur when a worker becomes buried by grain as they walk on moving grain or attempt to clear grain built up on the inside of a bin. Moving grain acts like quicksand and can bury a worker in seconds. Bridged grain and vertical piles of stored grain can collapse unexpectedly if a worker stands on or near it. The behavior and weight of the grain make it difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.
Not the first time company cited
OSHA initiated an inspection of the Wilmington Sabina Farmers Exchange facility after receiving a complaint that workers were entering the grain bin while the sweep auger was operating, resulting in one of the repeat violations. Another repeat violation was cited for exposing workers to fire hazards from improperly maintained electrical boxes. Sabina Farmers Exchange was previously cited for these violations in 2011.
Four serious violations were issued at the Wilmington facility for failing to have an observer positioned outside the bin to maintain communication with workers inside; to develop a written housekeeping program to prevent grain bin dust accumulation; and exposing workers to damaged electrical wiring.
Workers also exposed to moving machine parts
OSHA also inspected the Sabina Farmers Exchange facility in Sabina, which resulted in citations for one repeat violation for lack of guardrails on grain storage bins and lack of access ladder platforms that prevent employees from falling more than 9 feet. Two serious violations were cited for failure to protect workers from a machine's moving parts and for using a damaged electrical cord.
OSHA's National Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities focuses on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards. OSHA has published information related to common grain industry hazards and abatement methods, proper bin entry techniques, sweep auger use and other grain- related topics.