Category: Food

Grain Handling Facility Safety

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Grain handling facilities can be extremely hazardous and you need to take all appropriate steps to ensure safety. In this article I want to go over training, safety, emergency procedures, and entry into the grain storage facilities. In upcoming articles I will discuss many other important things you need to know when working in the grain handling industry. If you have any comments, questions or information you would like to share, please let me know. You safety and well-being are the reason I write.

Training :
Training for an employee who enters grain storage structures includes training about engulfment and mechanical hazards and how to avoid them.

Hot work permit – the employer shall issue a permit for all hot work, with the following exceptions: where the employer or the employer’s representative is present while the hot work is being performed; in welding shops authorized by the employer; and in hot work areas authorized by the employer which are located outside of the grain handling structure. The permit shall certify that the requirements contained in have been implemented prior to beginning the hot work operations. The permit shall be kept on file until completion of the hot work operations.

Entry into grain storage structures :
This paragraph applies to employee entry into bins, silos, tanks, and other grain storage structures. Exception: Entry through unrestricted ground level openings into flat storage structures in which there is no toxicity, flammability, oxygen-deficiency, or other atmospheric hazards. The term “grain” includes raw and processed grain and grain products in facilities. The following actions must be taken before employees enter bins, silos, or tanks. The employer shall issue a permit for entering bins, silos, or tanks unless the employer or the employer’s representative is present during the entire operation. The permit shall certify that the precautions have been implemented prior to employees entering bins, silos or tanks. The permit shall be kept on file until completion of the entry operations.

All mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic equipment which presents a danger to employees inside grain storage structures shall be turned off and shall be disconnected, The atmosphere within a bin, silo, or tank shall be tested for the presence of combustible gases, vapors, and toxic agents when the employer believes they may be present. Additionally, the atmosphere within a bin, silo, or tank must be tested for oxygen content unless there is continuous natural air movement or a continuous forced-air ventilation system before and during the period employees are inside.

If the oxygen level is less than 19.5% or if combustible gas or vapor is detected in excess of 10% of the lower flammable limit, or if toxic agents are present in excess of the ceiling values from effecting self-rescue or communication to obtain assistance, the following provisions apply – ventilation shall be provided until the unsafe condition or conditions are eliminated, and the ventilation shall be continued as long as there is a possibility of recurrence of the unsafe condition while the bin, silo, or tank is occupied by employees. If toxicity or oxygen deficiency cannot be eliminated by ventilation, employees entering the bin, silo, or tank shall wear an appropriate respirator. Respirator use shall be in accordance with the requirements.

“Walking down grain” and similar practices where an employee walks on grain to make it flow within or out from a grain storage structure, or where an employee is on moving grain, are prohibited. Whenever an employee enters a grain storage structure from a level at or above the level of the stored grain or grain products, or whenever an employee walks or stands on or in stored grain of a depth which poses an engulfment hazard, the employer shall equip the employee with a body harness with lifeline, or a boatswain’s chair that meets the requirements. The lifeline shall be so positioned, and of sufficient length, to prevent the employee from sinking further than waist-deep in the grain.

The employer shall provide equipment for rescue operations which is specifically suited for the bin, silo, or tank being entered. The employee acting as observer shall be trained in rescue procedures, including notification methods for obtaining additional assistance Employees shall not enter bins, silos, or tanks underneath a bridging condition, or where a buildup of grain products on the sides could fall and bury them – entry into flat storage structures. Products of a depth which poses an engulfment hazard, all equipment which presents a danger to that employee (such as an auger or other grain transport equipment) shall be turned off, and shall be disconnected.

The employer shall explain the applicable provisions of the emergency action plan to all employees. The employer shall develop and implement a written housekeeping program that establishes the frequency and method best determined to reduce accumulations of fugitive grain dust on ledges, floors, equipment, and other exposed surfaces. In addition, the housekeeping program for grain elevators shall address fugitive grain dust accumulations at priority housekeeping areas. Priority housekeeping areas shall include at least the following: Floor areas within 35 feet (10.7 m) of inside bucket elevators, Floors of enclosed areas containing grinding equipment, Floors of enclosed areas containing grain dryers located inside the facility. The employer shall immediately remove any fugitive grain dust accumulations whenever they exceed 1/8 inch (.32 cm) at priority housekeeping areas. The use of compressed air to blow dust from ledges, walls, and other areas shall only be permitted when all machinery that presents an ignition source in the area is shut-down, and all other known potential ignition sources in the area are removed or controlled.

Grain and product spills shall not be considered fugitive grain dust accumulations. However, the housekeeping program shall address the procedures for removing such spills from the work area. Truck or railcar receiving-pits, shall be covered by grates. The width of openings in the grates shall be a maximum of 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm). All fabric dust filter collectors which are a part of a pneumatic dust collection system shall be equipped with a monitoring device that will indicate a pressure drop across the surface of the filter.

Emergency action plan

The employer shall develop and implement an emergency action plan meeting the specific requirements. The employer shall provide training to employees at least annually and when changes in job assignment will expose them to new hazards. Current employees, and new employees prior to starting work, shall be trained in at least the following: general safety precautions associated with the facility, including recognition and preventive measures for the hazards related to dust accumulations and common ignition sources such as smoking; and specific procedures and safety practices applicable to their job tasks including but not limited to, cleaning procedures for grinding equipment, clearing procedures for choked legs, housekeeping procedures, hot work procedures, preventive maintenance procedures and lock-out/tag-out procedures. Employees assigned special tasks, such as bin entry and handling of flammable or toxic substances shall be provided training to perform these tasks safely.

Let me know if you find this information useful, the recent explosion at the sugar plant in Georgia really opened my eyes and as I did further research I found many other incidents of injury and death associated with dust and vapor explosions. You can’t be too safe, be alert, be cautious, and be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your co-workers. Be safe out there…

(Image Credits : “harvesting wheat” by imagesnz, “grain silos” by Living in Monrovia)