To continuously produce enough food and fiber to supply growing worldwide consumer markets, farmers often work through adverse and hazardous conditions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, agricultural occupations are the most dangerous in America, with 368 fatalities registered in 2020, or 18 deaths per 100,000 workers. Surprisingly, this is one of the lowest fatality numbers the industry has seen in several years, yet is still too high for comfort
And, this time of year, fall harvest time, leads to one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. That’s why the third week of September is designated National Farm Safety and Health Week. The theme of this year’s 79th annual event is “Protecting Agriculture’s Future,” a reminder that safety is a vital part of agriculture, according to the AgriSafe Network, an international nonprofit representing health and safety professionals.
2022’s Topics of Focus – Including Engulfment and Confined Spaces
National Farm Safety and Health Week has taken place every September since 1944, when the National Safety Council coordinated the project. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety at Northeast Iowa Community College’s Peosta campus later took control of developing each year’s campaign materials. This year’s event will feature daily themes which include:
Monday, September 19 - Tractor Safety & Rural Roadway Safety
Tuesday, September 20 - Overall Farmer Health
Wednesday, September 21 - Safety & Health for Youth in Agriculture
Thursday, September 22 – Confined Spaces
Friday, September 23 - Safety & Health for Women in Agriculture
AgriSafe will also be providing 10 free webinars that will focus on topics relative to agricultural health and safety professionals, health care providers, producers, and farmworkers. Two are held each day, at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM EST. The Thursday afternoon sessions include events on “Confined Space: Grain Bin Entry”, and “Roundtable Discussion: Grain Bin Safety” both webinars designed to help participants be able to identify hazards, monitor air quality, and understand responsibilities and processes that come with confined spaces.
The Dangers of Grain Bins and Confined Spaces
Grain bins are responsible for some of the most confined space related deaths across all industries, not just agriculture, with the most frequent event being engulfment in collapsing material. In addition to this, dangers can include explosions, falls, crushing injuries from equipment, and fires from unstable and unsafe conditions.
When grain is put into motion, due to gravity or by mechanical means, while a worker is inside a silo or similar structure, it can act on a human body similar to the way that quicksand does, causing the worker to lose his/her footing due to its instability and engulfing him/her in the shifting material. If rescue attempts are not successful, the person can become buried beneath the grain and suffocate, resulting in an engulfment classed hazard. Conditions that can cause the grain within the bin to move include the following:
- Collapse of accumulated grain along the side of the bin.
- Bridging of grain that sticks together, hiding a space underneath.
- Grain flow caused by operation of equipment that was not properly locked out and tagged prior to a worker entering the bin.
protection measures and clear safety procedures – which can be supported by slip, trip and fall labels, trip
hazard signs, and PPE
reinforcement signs related to the use of body harnesses and
lifelines – are important elements of preventing injuries and deaths from these
Seven Steps for Grain Bin Safety
In addition to preventing engulfment, there are several other measures that should come into play for maximizing grain bin safety, below are seven critical steps that OSHA recommends to stay safe:
- Turn off and lock out equipment before entering bins or performing maintenance
- Never walk down grain to make it flow
- Place a trained observer outside of the bin in case of emergency
- Test the air in the bin before entering
- Control the accumulation of grain dust with housekeeping
- Do not enter a bin where grain is built up on one side
- Use a safety harness and anchored lifeline
To learn more about grain bin safety, visit our blog post detailing the driving factors behind OSHA’s 2022 Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week.
Your Partner for Farm
Risks are a reality in the agricultural industry, but by adhering to basic, common sense principles and clear communication, grain bin and other farming-related hazards can be avoided. Clarion Safety has a full line of standards compliant, best practice safety signs and labels to help alert your workers to dangers. If you’re looking for a custom option, get in touch with our service team, who’s trained to design safety visuals that are suited to your unique needs.