Dangers of entering grain silos underestimated


Poor risk management, emergency planning, and training for confined spaces work put an electrician’s life in danger, WorkSafe says

It also threatened the safety of 14 others who went to his aid in a grain silo incident, says WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart.

Electrical company Austin Bros (1980) and farming partnership Mark and Sonia Dillon were fined in the Gore District Court for their roles in the incident followed a reserved decision on 14 June 2017.

The incident occurred in March 2016 when two electricians were wiring up motors in a newly commissioned grain silo on the Dillon’s property.

The electricians were working on top of the grain without harnesses and with no power isolation.

A truck arrived to empty the silo and the grain outfeed auger was turned on.

“The dangers of working on grain are well known,” Stewart insists.

“Moving grain acts like quicksand and can bury a person in seconds.

Even if grain appears to be solid, it is not a safe surface for workers,” he adds.

One electrician was engulfed in the grain and had to be dug out and resuscitated.

Four rescuers required hospital treatment for breathing difficulties.

“The electricians should have been wearing harnesses; the truck driver should have been told they were in the silo,” Stewarts maintains.

“It was good luck rather than good management that meant no one died in this incident.”

Austin Bros (1980) was sentenced on one charge under S6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure safety of its employees at work and fined $35,000.

The Dillon Partnership was charged under section 6, 17 and 18(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act for their failures in respect of their employees, the contractor’s employees and Dillon’s actions of turning on the auger.

The court fined Dillion Partnership $69,000 on totality of all three charges.

Each defendant was ordered to pay reparation of $5,000 – $7,000 was awarded to the victim engulfment, and $3,000 was awarded to the electrician who managed to get out of the silo and raise the alarm.

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