Five seconds. That is how quickly a worker can become engulfed in flowing grain and be unable to get out.
Sixty seconds. That is how quickly a worker can be completely submerged in flowing grain. More than half of all grain engulfments result in death by suffocation.
In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfments, the highest number on record.
In the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62%, according to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana.
"OSHA is working hard to change the 'it won't happen to me' mindset," says Nick Walters, OSHA regional administrator for six Midwestern states. "Grain handling injuries and deaths can be prevented if employers follow proper safety procedures."
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 also collapse unexpectedly if a worker stands on or near it. The behavior and weight of the grain make it extremely difficult for a worker to get out of it without assistance.
In Ohio, there have been two recent engulfment deaths on family farms in Milan and in Clark County near Springfield. The most recent death occurred May 28. Neither farm is under OSHA jurisdiction as they employ 10 or less individuals.
OSHA has worked with the Ohio State University to develop a grain safety training session as part of the 2012 OSU/OSHA Safety Day on Grain Safety and plans to do a presentation for the Grain Elevator and Processing Society later this year.