WorkSafe New Zealand has recently issued a safety alert on the serious health and safety risks of entering and working in a grain silo following an incident where a worker was trapped in grain when an unloading auger was turned on while he was inside a grain silo.
The safety watchdog said the incident highlights the risk for workers and any other persons when effective controls are not in place and safety procedures are not followed when working in confined spaces like grain silos. A person can sink into the contents of the silo and suffocate.
“Silos present a number of risks that must be managed appropriately. Entering into silos, either from the ground or the top, presents a significant risk to workers,” WorkSafe said in its safety alert.
“Workers can easily be engulfed by bulk materials such as grain, sand, flour, fertilizer, and sawdust. Bulk materials are not solid and there are often unstable areas (voids) that may collapse under the weight of a worker. This can cause a worker to become trapped or buried in the silo.”
WorkSafe NZ says that PCBUs should complete a risk assessment and review their controls before working in a grain silo. PCBUs are also advised to ensure people are appropriately trained to work inside silos; take advantage of new technology, such as sweep augers or vacuums that reduce the need for physical entry; and to test the rescue system they intend to use so they know it will work in an emergency.
Workers are reminded to ensure they are given adequate training on the work to be done and to understand the procedures for entry and do a risk assessment before entering the silo.