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(550b) Safety Risks When Storing and Handling Bulk Solids

Carson, J. - Presenter, Jenike & Johanson Inc
Each year hundreds if not thousands of individuals are severely injured -- and many are killed -- when working in and around bulk solids storage and handling facilities. While this represents but a small percentage of all fatal occupational accidents reported by OSHA and other government agencies, these accidents often receive more press coverage and, in many cases, are avoidable for reasons explained in this paper.

Numerous codes and standards specify means to calculate material-induced loads that are needed to design silos. Unfortunately, these codes do not provide users with consistent information, and many common silo design conditions are not covered.

In reviewing the several dozen litigations in which I have been personally involved as an expert witness that resulted in either serious injury or death plus an even larger number that, fortunately, did not, I have found several main causes of accidents that have occurred when storing, handling and processing bulk solids.

Safety awareness is not limited to the chemical processing and mining industries -- it is on the mind of workers and management in every industrial plant worldwide. While there should not be any disagreement that it is unacceptable in this day and age to have workplace losses caused by stupidity or carelessness, one is left wondering if it is possible that bulk solids are so pervasive that it is impossible to regulate workers into being safe.

Conducting a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) before performing a task that might result in injury or death is always a good idea.

An extremely useful reference is E. Scott Geller’s The Psychology of Safety. The author of this practical handbook teaches science-based and feasible approaches to change what people think (attitude) and do (behavior) in order to achieve what he calls “a Total Safety Culture”. In this culture, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis. At work, employees go beyond “the call of duty” to identify environmental hazards and at-risk behaviors. Then, they intervene to correct them. Safe work practices are supported with proper recognition procedures.

Building a Total Safety Culture requires a long-term continuous improvement process. It involves cultivating constructive change in both the behaviors and attitudes of everyone in the organization.

More education of the dangers involved in the storage, handling and processing of bulk solids is required. This is a huge undertaking given that owners, operators, workers, contractors, designers, repair crews, trucking firms.... all need to be educated. Papers such as this one hopefully raise awareness of the problems that can occur, but this information needs to be distributed to a very wide audience.