Wednesday, February 12, 2014

OSHA backs off efforts to monitor grain bins on small farms, sites of most entrapments, over 1/3 of deaths

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After complaints from farmers and Republicans in Congress that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was illegally enforcing grain-bin regulations grain bins on small farms – which account for more than a third of grain-bin deaths and more than two-thirds of grain-bin entrapments – the Labor Department said it will consult with the Agriculture Department and farm organizations to issue new guidelines on regulations, reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter.

About 70 percent of known entrapments throughout history happened on farms and locations not subject to OSHA regulation under a 1976 law that exempted farms with 10 or fewer employees, according to a report by Purdue University. From 2007 to 2012, there were 212 cases of grain-bin entrapment in the U.S., with 102 deaths. In 2012, 37 percent of entrapments occurred on exempt farms, 47 percent happened at commercial facilities and in 16 percent of cases the nature of the location was unknown, according to the report. Those eye-popping numbers drew the attention of OSHA, which began looking at farm grain bins. Farmers weren't happy, and cited the 1976 law. (Purdue graphic)
Brian Kennedy, the Department of Labor's congressional liaison, wrote in a letter to Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) that "DOL prohibits OSHA activity on farms that employ 10 or fewer employees and that do not maintain a temporary labor camp," Agri-Pulse reports. "In 2010 there was a dramatic increase in the number of workers entrapped and suffocated in grain storage structures while performing grain handling operations.' In response, the department ramped up its inspection program—and cut down on such accidents." That didn't go over well with farm lobbies, leading to the memo's withdrawal and the turn of discussions to the creation of new guidelines. (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Does this include grain dryers? They're a horrible, ubiquitous rural noise and health hazard that annoys neighbors 24/7, disturbs sleep all night and spoils our rural soundscape and environment. The agriculture industry has successfully lobbied for 20 years to be exempt from OSHA regulations and farmers have among the highest incidents of hearing loss. What a coincidence! A large manufacturer of grain dryer fans said that new fans are (still) emitting dB 85-95 at 25 feet, being hazardous to the hearing and health of workers and farmers. The manufacturer obviously does not care about the hearing or health of workers, farmers or neighbors. Don't know what grain dryer fans sound like? Imagine a giant telephone dial tone from all directions flooding the countryside 24/7 for days or weeks, or imagine your neighbors all laying on their car horns 24/7 for days or weeks. Remember how Captain Kirk was tortured with noise/sound from an episode over 40 years ago? Everyone knows what this noise does, nobody admits it or does anything. An engineer said that grain dryer noise is eddy currents (I'd rather listen to Eddie Van Halen), which represent inefficiency and that the manufacturer cheaped out and used a cheapo fan blade because they probably thought a better quality blade would cost too much. They've socialized their costs onto people, workers, farmers, neighbors, the environment's health, well-being and quality of life..all to save a few pennies. One woman told me she can hear her neighbor;s grain dryer from 3 miles away!