Walking Down the Grain Fatalities on the Rise: OSHA sends letters

[tweetmeme]Suffocation deaths in grain bins are on the rise lately and in a great article published yesterday by the Wichita Eagle, the senseless nature of these deaths are highlighted. The simple truth is there are a lot of grain operators that are turning a blind eye to the risks involved while claiming ignorance about safety.

Meanwhile OSHA continues to sit on its hands doing relatively little to prevent these avoidable fatalities.  According to the article: “Last year (Dr. David) Michaels, OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor, sent out thousands of letters to grain storage companies warning that he was appalled at the “outrageously reckless behavior” of some operators.”

Yet regulatory fines are routinely negotiated down to paltry levels and to date no one has spent anytime in jail for sending these young workers into harms way.    Many will argue that there is little OSHA can do given the current regulatory framework in which they work in, and I don’t doubt that there is some truth to that.

Given all the safety technology advancements, and lessons learned with the deaths of workers in the past, we still face the prospect that on average 12 workers will die tomorrow upon returning to work after spending time with friends and family this past Thanksgiving weekend.

Grain bin dangers

Working in grain bins is one of the most dangerous jobs in what has become America’s most hazardous industry: agriculture. Some are calling for OSHA to “put someone in jail” so grain bin operators would be more careful when workers are “walking the grain.”

That’s what it’s called when employees, even farm children, are sent into bins when grain clumps together or sticks to the sides. They often use shovels or pickaxes to break the clumps apart so augurs can pull the grain to the bottom of the bin for loading. But once the grain is freed, it can act much like quicksand — swallowing workers, plugging their airways with grain and ultimately suffocating them.

Read more: http://www.kansas.com/2011/11/26/2117066/suffocation-deaths-in-grain-bins.html#ixzz1ey6jAZ6U

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