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Workplace hazards claim lives at grain processing facilities

A great deal of effort goes into putting bread on the tables of Louisiana families, and the workers in grain silos face deadly risks on the job. An annual Purdue University survey noted an increase in deaths in 2016 among workers in grain silos. According to the survey, 29 entrapment incidents, which involve a worker being caught or buried in grain, happened in 2016, and 18 people died. This represented an increase from 2015 when entrapment caused 14 fatalities.

Another 42 accidents caused by falls, suffocation and entanglement with machinery ended the lives of 22 workers. The professor in charge of the survey pointed out that the numbers did not include every accident. Although commercial grain processing plants must notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about worker deaths, small farms are not required to report to federal regulators.

OSHA regulations set forth safety procedures meant to reduce or prevent these accidents. Silos are designated as confined spaces, which means workers entering a silo need to have a tether attached and a co-worker present to observe and assist. Silos should not be entered when machinery is running inside them. Accidents often occur, however, when grain gets clogged and a worker enters the chamber to address the problem.

When someone gets hurt or killed on the job, the employer's workers' compensation insurance should pay for medical care or death benefits. No negligence needs to have occurred for an employee to collect benefits after a workplace accident. If willful an repeated violations of safety rules by the employer contributed to an accident, the victim might want to consult an attorney before filing a claim for benefits. An attorney might see if it would be more advisable to file a lawsuit against the employer instead.

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