Do you work in a grain handling facility in Minnesota? Such facilities serve to receive, store, process, handle and ship grains in bulk. The raw agricultural products could include, among others, wheat, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, barley and soybeans. The facilities typically consist of feed mills, grain elevators, dust pelletizing plants, soybean flaking and grinding operations, along with dry corn, rice and flour mills.
As a worker in any of these grain handling facilities, you will face an endless list of hazards, some of which could be life-threatening. Your safety is the responsibility of your employer, who must provide appropriate safety training and personal protective equipment.
Typical grain handling hazards
Accumulations of grain dust pose fire and explosion hazards. You may find yourself at risk of entrapment or engulfment when you enter grain bins. Falls from heights as you work on grain handling equipment can cause crushing injuries, fractured bones and amputations.
Spoiling grain and fumigation can cause a buildup of toxic gases or fumes, and along with those risks, the following factors can create hazardous atmospheres:
- Unhealthy levels of mold, toxic chemical fumigants, gases produced by fermenting and decaying silage, and other airborne contaminants pose significant risks.
- Inadequate warnings about the presence of insect-control fumigants can expose you to the associated risks without your knowledge.
- Hazardous gases can cause you to faint and fall into the grain, exposing you to engulfment and suffocation.
- Fumigant exposure can damage your central nervous system, and it could even cause vascular and heart disease, cancer and lung edema.
Grain dust explosions
Safety authorities say statistics of the past 35 years show more than 675 injuries and 180 fatalities in over 500 grain dust explosions nationwide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires strict control of grain dust and the following ignition sources in grain elevators:
- The primary fuel source for grain explosions is grain dust.
- Accumulations of grain dust on surfaces or large volumes of airborne dust are highly combustible and could burn or explode instantly.
- Additional ignition sources include an overheated motor, hot bearing, welding sparks, misaligned conveyor belt, brazing and cutting.
Moving grain can bury you in the blink of an eye because it acts just like quicksand. The following conditions cause life-threatening hazards:
- Walking on grain or attempts to clear built-up grain from the bin walls pose engulfment hazards.
- Vertical piles of grain form bridges, and while they appear secure, they can collapse if you step onto them or even stand near them.
- Once engulfment starts, it is almost impossible to get out without help, and suffocation can occur in seconds.
Your job will expose you to equipment such as conveyors and augers that pose amputation and entanglement hazards. The lack of safeguards on equipment can catch your limbs in moving machine parts.
Falls from heights
You will spend a lot of time working and walking on elevated surfaces that include skylights, roofs, ladders, unguarded roof holes, catwalks, man lifts and platforms. Examples include situations in which you must navigate vertical exterior grain bin ladders to get to the bin roof or entrance.
Grain handling is hazardous, and it might be wise for you to learn the steps to take if you should suffer work-related injuries. Most important is to get the necessary medical care and then report the incident to your employer as soon as possible. This is where an experienced Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney can be an invaluable asset. The lawyer can navigate the claims process in pursuit of benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages and any other compensation under applicable state laws.