Recently, the California Department of Industrial Relation's Division of Occupational Safety and Health took the opportunity to remind our state's agricultural employers about the dangers of grain handling and working in confined spaces. In recent history, the number of workplace accidents involving workers killed in confined spaces such as grain silos has increased. In 2010, two people were killed. In 2011, that number increased to seven.
Sept. 15 through Sept. 21 was National Farm Safety and Health Week. This campaign was aimed at giving those in the agricultural field training and education regarding how to keep their employees safe when they were handling grain and silage. This campaign also kick started an increase in the enforcement of safety regulations regarding confined spaces.
As it turns out, every employer is required to have a "confined space plan" if employees are going to be working in them. Those plans are supposed to include a way to rescue workers who become trapped and ways to test the air in those spaces. Employers are also required to train employees about the hazards and safety measures with regard to working in confined spaces.
Having the proper safety measures in place can limit those workplace accidents. However, even the most safety conscious California employer can still end up with an injured employee. When that happens, the injured employee is entitled to workers' compensation benefits to help them with medical expenses and lost wages while they recover. If the worst happens, and an employee is killed, that person's family may be entitled to death benefits through the workers' compensation system, and may possibly be able to file a civil action as well.
Source: concord-ca.patch.com, Fatalities Inspire Cal/ OSHA To Remind Public of Grain-Handling Hazards, Vanessa Castaneda, Sept. 19, 2013