In Florida and across the U.S., workers in and around grain storage facilities are at a high risk for suffocation through grain engulfment. For this reason, OSHA has teamed up with the National Grain and Feed Association in an effort to raise awareness of the danger of grain engulfment and to prevent further deaths arising from it.
Grain usually engulfs a person while it is being unloaded, after it has been bridged, or after it has accumulated into a pile and creates an avalanche. OSHA states that flowing grain can bury a person in 22 seconds from the time that it's unloaded; a person has only a few seconds to react before he or she is trapped by the grain.
While there are OSHA guidelines concerning the safety storage of grain, only commercial facilities, not farms, are required to follow these. Many choose to ignore the rules, sometimes rushing to clean out grain bins in the effort to achieve maximum productivity. Others may simply have a complacent attitude, not knowing the dangers.
This is where training is crucial, according to OSHA. Workers should be trained to turn off all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic equipment, especially grain-moving equipment, before entering the facility. Lockout-tagout procedures are essential. Workers should wear body harnesses when entering facilities and never enter the empty spaces created by bridging.
When workers die in a grain engulfment incident, their family or other dependents may be eligible for death benefits through the workers' compensation program. Though the state places a limit on the possible settlement, it still covers burial expenses as well as a portion of the decedent's weekly pay, which could extend to one year. Families could ask a lawyer for a case evaluation; the lawyer could even bring together the necessary evidence and help them file the claim or mount an appeal.