Wisconsin grain accidents lead to death, long-term disability

A recently released report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association (WABA) suggests that grain handling is an area in which safety improvements can be made. Workers within the grain industry are exposed to a wide range of risks associated with grain handling, and the partnership between OSHA and WABA was created in 2012 to address safety issues pertaining to grain workers. Representatives from the two organizations meet quarterly to discuss worker education programs and other ways to reduce the occurrence of injuries that could lead to long-term disability and even death.

One topic that is of concern across the industry is grain engulfment. Engulfment occurs when a worker falls into grain that is more than waist deep. Because of the weight of stored grain and its unique behavior qualities, once a worker begins sinking into it, extrication without assistance is extremely difficult. The grain effectively acts like quicksand, and workers become buried in just a few seconds. In many cases, suffocation is the result.

The alliance between OSHA and WABA, as well as several other organizations, seek to reduce the rates of engulfment and other workplace injuries. Falls, confined space injuries and electrocution hazards are just some of the other topics of concern within the grain handling industry. One step toward that goal has been the design and use of red decals in the shape of stop signs that carry short phrases reminding workers of best practices when working in or around stored grain. These signs can be adhered to grain bin doors, giving workers a final reminder of the dangers that are inherent in this type of work.

For those in Wisconsin who have been injured while working in the grain industry, the risk of losing their means of making a living is often of primary concern. Many families rely on the income earned by grain workers, and the sudden loss of that income can be financially devastating. Factor in the medical bills required to address recovery from a serious injury, and many families approach bankruptcy in the months and years following an accident. Long-term disability is the result for some, but ensuring that the proper level of benefits are received can be difficult in many cases. Those who are unfamiliar with the process of applying for and receiving long-term disability should determine the extent of their rights under the law.

Source: United States Department of Labor, “Learn & Live: Grain industry hazards lead to deaths, injuries each year,” June 19, 2013

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