Labor History in 2:00

December 31 - Fighting for Safer Working Conditions

December 31, 2021

On this day in labor history, the year was 1987.

That was the day OSHA issued its final rule on Grain Handling Facilities.

This standard was established almost ten years after discussions and Congressional hearings began on the subject.

There had been a series of catastrophic explosions in the late 1970s, which dominated national attention.

A special task force was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate grain elevator safety and explosions after 13 USDA inspectors were killed in 1977.

Five separate incidents involving grain elevator explosions killed 59 and injured another 49, just in December of that year alone.

The USDA task force issued a report with guidelines soon after the National Grain and Feed Association conducted its own research and guideline issuance.

By 1981, the Food and Allied Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO petitioned OSHA to promulgate a rule regulating the build-up of explosive dust in grain elevators.

When the final rule was issued, it focused on requirements for the control of fires, grain dust explosions, and hazards associated with entry into bins, silos, and tanks, as well as hazards associated with the release of hazardous energy from equipment.

The standard held employers responsible for developing emergency action and escape plans as well as worker safety training.

The standard also set rules for safe entry procedures.

When the standard came up for review in 1998, OSHA noted that for the previous forty years, there had been 600 explosions, 250 deaths and over 1000 injuries related to grain elevator explosions.

They also determined there had been a 70% decrease in fatalities from explosions and a 44% decrease in suffocations in the years after the final rule had been issued.

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