Health, Safety, Security and Environment

Grain Handling Safety Training Program

7 min read

Grain handling workers face severe dangers of suffocation, falling, entanglement, fires, explosions, electrocutions, and injuries from improperly guarded machinery. These dangers can be eliminated if employers implement a safe grain handling program,  train their employees on the safe handling of grain, and both employer and employee carefully follow the procedures to ensure the safe handling of grain.

here in the article below you will be familiar with the Grain handling safety program. This program provides information on reducing hazards for people working in grain handling facilities. Employers and employees will learn precautions to protect themselves against potentially hazardous conditions in grain handling facilities.

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Grain handling safety


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Grain Handling Facilities Standard, 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.272, defines grain handling facilities as grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills, rice mills, dust pellet plants, dry corn mills, soybean flaking operations, and the dry grinding operations of soy cake. Many safety and health hazards are associated with grain handling operations.

Suffocation and falls are the two leading causes of death at grain handling facilities. Potential flash fires and explosions also endanger the men and women who work in this industry due to excessive airborne grain dust, electrocutions, and injuries from improperly guarded machinery. Exposures of grain dust and associated airborne contaminants can present health and respiratory hazards. OSHA issued the grain handling facilities standard to reduce injuries and deaths in the grain handling industry. The standard requires worker training in the identification and control of grain-handling hazards.

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OSHA requires employers to provide annual training to their employees. Training must occur:

  • when changes happen in work assignments that expose employees to new or unfamiliar hazards;
  • before new employees start working; and
  • when employees receive new, infrequent, or suspected-hazardous tasks, such as bin entry and toxic or flammable substances handling.

Employee training must include:

  • general safety precautions associated with grain handling facilities;
  • ways to recognize and prevent grain dust hazards and suspected ignition sources (smoking, overheated equipment, or static electricity); and
  • specific procedures and safety practices for job-related tasks, including, but not limited to, clearing a choked leg in the bucket elevator, performing housekeeping, hot work, lockout/Tagout, and preventative maintenance.

Emergency Operations Plan

Each facility must develop and implement a written emergency operations plan. If there are fewer than 10 employees, OSHA does not require a written plan. However, it is recommended to have one on file. If the business has 10 or more employees, the employer must create emergency action plans for the contingencies found in 29 CFR 1910.38.

OSHA requires that the plan include a separate and distinct alarm system to alert employees. The alarm must be audible and visible throughout the facility and identifiable above background noise. The plan must include evacuation procedures, escape routes, assembly areas, provisions for accounting for all personnel, and training for all employees. Workplace maps must be prominently displayed and clearly show the escape routes.

In grain elevators, there must be two means of emergency escape from galleries or bin decks. The plan must designate safe areas outside the facility where employees can assemble after evacuation. Local fire departments and emergency medical services are sources of information and support in preparing for emergencies. Familiarizing both departments with the grain handling facility can save valuable time when fighting fires, conducting rescues, and responding to injuries.


OSHA requires grain-handling facilities to have a mandatory written housekeeping program to prevent combustible grain dust accumulation. The housekeeping program must address methods of removing spilled grain from work areas and identifying areas in grain elevators known to be potential sources of ignition. These priority areas include floor space within 35 feet of the inside bucket elevator legs and enclosed areas containing grain drying equipment. The program must also include methods for reducing dust accumulations on ledges, floors, equipment, and other exposed surfaces. Cleaning with compressed air is discouraged except when all potential sources of ignition are removed or controlled.

The OSHA standard allows “…a maximum accumulation of no more than 1/8 inch of dust in priority housekeeping areas of grain elevators…” When this amount of grain dust accumulates, steps must be taken immediately for its removal.

Dust accumulations may be reduced by:

  • spraying with oil or water;
  • using oil additives, such as white mineral oil, to the grain flow; and
  • making changes in the material handling process.

Also Read: Worksite Housekeeping Basics

Preventative Maintenance

OSHA does not mandate a written preventive maintenance program. However, all electrical and mechanical equipment must be kept in good operating condition. An overheated bearing or a slipping belt can be the ignition source of a catastrophic dust explosion. Annual inspections of mechanical and safety control equipment, such as dryers, steam processing equipment, and dust collecting equipment, including filter collectors and bucket elevators, are required.

When maintenance has been completed, the equipment is tagged. The inspector signs, dates, and documents all work done. Additionally, all lockout/Tagout procedures required by the OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.147 should be observed when entering grain elevators or silos for maintenance.

Hot Work

Grain handling facilities are required to implement a hot work permit system. Hot work includes electric or gas welding, cutting, grinding, brazing, or any similar activity that produces a flame or spark. The permit ensures that the employer and operating personnel know that hot work is being performed and that appropriate safety precautions have been taken.

The OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1917.152 does not require a hot work permit under the following circumstances:

  • when performed in the presence of the employer or the employer’s authorized representative;
  • when occurring in the facility designated welding shop; or
  • when conducted out of doors, away from the facility.

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Confined Space Entry into Silos, Bins, & Tanks

This section gives some general information about entering confined spaces. For specific information, consult 29 CFR 1910.146 for confined space entry, 29 CFR 1910.272(g)(5) for training and permit requirements, and 29 CFR 1910.272(g)(1)(i) for confined space entry not requiring a permit.

confined space

Permits help employers maintain control over personnel entry into confined spaces. Employees and contractors must be thoroughly informed of the hazards associated with entry into bins, silos, and tanks.

Atmospheric testing in confined spaces is mandatory. Tests must be conducted before entry and continued until work is completed, even if there is continuous natural air movement or forced air ventilation of the space. Only trained specialists should perform the tests, interpret the results, and specify appropriate procedures when the atmosphere is hazardous.

Ventilation, supplemented by the use of proper air-supplied respirators, shall be provided when:

  • oxygen levels are less than 19.5%;
  • concentrations of toxic agents exceed OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) (CFR 1910.1000 Table Z1);
  • the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ threshold limit value is exceeded; or
  • exposure will cause health effects that would restrict a person’s ability to self-rescue or obtain assistance.

Forced ventilation is needed if combustible gas or vapor concentrations exceed 10% of the lower flammable limit. (This should preclude entry until the area has been ventilated). Ventilation should continue until the unsafe condition is eliminated and maintained as long as the space is occupied. Personnel entering a bin, silo, or tank from the top must wear a full parachute-type body harness with a lifeline. This type of harness holds the body vertically and makes it easier to remove the victim through small access hatches in an accident. A trained and properly equipped attendant must maintain communication with the confined area personnel and provide help if needed.

Also Read: Managing Confined space Hazards

Inside Bucket Elevator

Standard bucket elevators must have an opening (inspection port) to the head pulley and boot section to allow for inspection, cleaning, and maintenance. Bearings must be mounted externally on the leg casing or, if mounted inside or partially inside the leg casing, they must be equipped with vibration, temperature, or other sensors.

These sensors monitor the bearing’s condition and permit timely shutdown before the critical temperature is reached or sparks are produced. The interiors of bucket elevators are recognized industry-wide as potential ignition sources for primary explosions.

or more. The belt must be fitted with a belt alignment monitor that sounds an alarm when the belt is not tracking correctly or the pulleys need adjustment. Two optional methods for protecting the bucket elevator’s head and boot sections are fire and explosion suppression systems and a pneumatic dust control system, which keeps dust inside the bucket elevator at 25% below the lower explosive limit during operation.

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Review Questions

1. What are the two leading causes of death at grain handling facilities?

a. electrocution and improperly guarded machinery;

b. weather and unguarded machinery;

c. carelessness and horseplay; or

d. suffocation and falls.

2. Training for grain handling employees must include:

a. general safety precautions associated with grain handling facilities;

b. recognition and preventive measures for hazards associated with grain dust and common ignition sources;

c. specific procedures and safety practices related to job tasks; or

d. all of the above.

3. Grain handling facilities must have written housekeeping rules to:

a. prevent the accumulation of combustible grain dust;

b. address methods of removing spilled grain from work areas;

c. identify areas in grain elevators known to be potential sources of ignition; or

d. all of the above.

4. Silos, bins, and tanks are considered confined spaces in the grain handling industry. To enter without respiratory protection, the oxygen level must be:

a. 19.5%;

b. 23.5%;

c. 16.5%; or

d. 11.5%


1. (d); 2. (d); 3. (d); 4. (a).

Also Read: Material handling Hazards and controls

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