IN THIS ISSUE
It Happened to One of Us
2017 Incident Summary
(Source: Alberta Government. Investigation Report Worker fatally injured by a steer while loading cattle, Aug. 17, 2017. Open.alberta.ca. Accessed Oct. 17, 2022, from https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/ee80e0b2-f419-42e2-988c-3f5dab31a0a4/resource/a603a0ff-a521-4756-bf6e-c569c583fb6f/download/lbr-2017-08-17-coro-view-farms-report-public.pdf)
|Description||Injury Type||Age Range||Sector||WCB Code|
|Crushed while loading cattle into a cattle liner||Fatality||Not Confirmed||Not Confirmed||Not Confirmed|
The driver of a cattle liner was moving steers through a series of gates and chutes to be loaded. The driver had been employed by the farm for approximately four years and had experience both working with cattle and operating the truck with the cattle liner.
The driver followed three steers up a chute and into the cattle liner, then turned around and walked back down the ramp and chute. One of the steers also turned around and followed the truck driver down the ramp, pinning them against the gate and repeatedly head butting them. The other workers who had been present came to the driver’s aid. While in the ambulance the driver who had been conscious and talking became unresponsive. The driver was pronounced deceased at hospital.
- Use the safety features that trailers/liners are equipped with, such as pin latches and interior/mid gates to prevent animals from turning back.
- Avoid turning your back to an animal, particularly one that has been worked up from handling.
Never forget that animal behaviour can be unpredictable, so it is important not to let your guard down.
What’s All The Fuss about Grain Bin Ladders?
It has been reported that in Saskatchewan grain bins will not be measured for crop insurance purposes due to occupational health and safety related reasons. While this does not appear to be the case in Alberta, there are some points that producers in our province need to be clear on:
- OHS legislation does not prevent employees from climbing ladders. When producers require an employee to climb a ladder, they are required to ensure the safety of their employees and other worksite parties as far as reasonably practicable. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing this, which is why it is so important to perform hazard assessments and put appropriate hazard control measures in place.
- Farms in Alberta are not legally obligated to install fall protection systems on grain bins at this time, nor does the use of fall protection equipment automatically make climbing a grain bin safe (there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when using fall protection equipment). In some cases, having a ladder that is in good condition and attached to a structurally sound grain bin, along with having other hazard control measures in place, may be reasonable.
- Whether you are an employer, landowner or both, you have health and safety obligations under the OHS Act. Remember, producers are required to ensure the safety of their employees and other worksite parties as far as reasonably practicable. Consider these questions: How do you keep your employees or contractors safe on your farm? Who climbs a bin ladder, how often is it climbed, what are the reasons for climbing it, is it necessary for it to be climbed, and what measures are taken to ensure that people are safe while climbing a grain bin ladder? Are you really doing everything reasonable to protect the people on your farm?
Why Should Anyone Care About Climbing Grain Bins?
- Grain bins are much bigger than they used to be. Grain bins can be as high as 60 feet, but even a fall from less than 10 feet can be fatal or cause serious injury. The Alberta OHS Code requires other industries to have a fall protection plan in place when a worker may fall three metres or more and the worker is not protected by guard rails. At the time of publication, this part of the OHS Code does not directly apply to farmers and ranchers. Despite the OHS Code not applying at this time, producers are still required to take measures to ensure individuals working at heights are protected as far as reasonably possible.
- Grain bins and their parts have a limited life span. There are still a lot of older grain bins in use. Many factors play into how long a grain bin can last (i.e., how long it takes to corrode), and items such as ladders and the bolts that secure them into place may corrode more quickly or become damaged over time.
- Not everyone can or should be climbing a ladder. Someone who is experiencing the effects of medications or other substances, has a physical weakness or severe arthritis, or has an illness that affects their balance or makes them dizzy should not be climbing a grain bin ladder. Someone who has not been trained to climb a grain bin ladder or use fall protection should also not be climbing one.
- How do you know the person is trained to climb a ladder? Do you teach the people on your farm about the different types of ladders, the hazards of the ladder they are using, the safe work practices for it (e.g., three points of contact, 4:1 rule, etc.)? When a third-party comes to climb a grain bin ladder, how do you know they are trained and competent? Think about it: a ladder is such a common and basic tool, yet few people are ever actually taught how to use a one or the hazards of a ladder, and as a result, many people are injured using them.
- If someone did fall from a grain bin, how would they get help? This is especially important if they are knocked unconscious while working alone… how would anyone ever know? Even if a fall occurs while someone is using a fall arrest system properly, they can still lose consciousness and/or experience suspension trauma (which can be fatal).
When someone (e.g., a crop insurance inspector) comes onto your farm, you have obligations regarding their health and safety. If you have not already, it is highly recommended that you watch OHS Lawyer Christopher Spasoff’s webinar on bringing contractors and other worksite parties onto your farm. This webinar can be viewed on AgSafe Alberta’s learning platform here: https://agsafeab.ca/webinars-and-workshops/growing-farm-safety-webinar-series/.
Being proactive when it comes to health and safety benefits not only your farm, but the agricultural industry as well. When legislators, workers’ compensation boards or, in Saskatchewan’s case, other worksite parties take notice of serious safety issues that are going unaddressed, their attempt to correct the situation and protect people may be a far from ideal solution for producers.
For guidance on what you can do when it comes to climbing grain bins safely, read the Safety First, Last Thoughts… section of this newsletter below. Additionally, we welcome you to contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
SAFETY FIRST, LAST THOUGHTS
Climbing Grain Bins: How To Reduce The Risk!
If you have not already, perform a hazard assessment for climbing a grain bin! We have included a simplified, sample hazard assessment form and a sample completed form to help you below. Keep in mind that the sample is an example only and your hazard assessment will need to be made specific to your farm and your grain bin.
Develop farm specific procedures and safe work practices that clearly communicate how the work should be done. These will set the standard on your farm, and you will need to ensure that these procedures and practices are being followed.
Perform regular grain bin inspections that include the condition of the ladder and bolts keeping it in place. When a defect or potential issue is found, ensure that it gets corrected right away.
Even if you are a family farm, it is important to teach the people on your farm about ladders, their hazards, and how to use one safely. We have included a simplified competency form that you can use on your farm and a sample to help you complete it.
How do you decide or control who climbs a grain bin ladder? Identify the reasons that require the grain bin ladder to be climbed and the reasons that do not. Identify ways to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing these areas (i.e., chains, locks, etc.). Often we hear that farm owners/operators and supervisors will climb the bin themselves to manage the risk. However, what would happen if you are not around and someone else needs to check the bin?
Where possible, consider installing a remote grain bin monitoring system. These monitoring systems not only make it safer by reducing the need to climb a grain bin, but they also help to ensure the grain quality is maintained.
Where possible, consider installing a grain bin fall protection system. They are more affordable than installing stairs, but do have special considerations regarding their safe use, such as specialized training in order to be used effectively and they require a fall protection plan to name just two.
If it is possible, consider installing stairs onto existing grain bins or purchasing new bins already equipped with stairs. Farmers are known for working well into their senior years. Installing stairs will help someone who is advancing in age continue to check their bins safely for many years.
- Simple Formal Hazard Assessment Form – COMPLETED SAMPLE (Grain Bin Ladder)
- Simple Formal Hazard Assessment Form
- Competency Evaluation Form – COMPLETED SAMPLE
- Competency Evaluation Form
Learn more about Fall Protection Plans from this Government of Alberta publication: Occupational health and safety (OHS) fall protection plan