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Dangers of entering grain silo underestimated

26 June 2017

Dangers of entering grain silo underestimated

Poor risk management, emergency planning, and training for confined spaces work put an electrician’s life in danger and threatened the safety of 14 others who went to his aid in a grain silo incident, says WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart.

The electrical company Austin Bros (1980) and the farming partnership Mark and Sonia Dillon appeared in the Gore District Court for sentencing on 14 June 2017 and in a reserved decision, the court has fined the company and the partnership for their roles in the incident.

In March 2016 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. Moving grain acts like quick sand and can bury a person in seconds. Even if grain appears to be solid, it is not a safe surface for workers,” said Mr Stewart.

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. It was good luck rather than good management that meant no one died in this incident,” Mr Stewart said.


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