Although people may not commonly think of Arizona as an agricultural state, the state has its fair share of farms. Those Arizona farmers who grow wheat and other grains do in all probability rely on the services of a grain bin or grain elevator to store their product.
Recent work accidents, including one recent fatal accident, have highlighted the safety hazards that these grain bins can pose to those who work at them. One expert, an advocate for workplace safety, argues that grain bin operators have long known of the particular risks that this type of job creates but have not been proactive in protecting their employees. According to this expert, the number of worker fatalities at these grain bins has increased in recent years.
The most common risks that grain bin workers face are from suffocation and from sudden explosions. Workers have been known to die after being trapped in grain and unable to breathe, and recent explosions at grain elevators in another state claimed the lives of two employees last month.
The head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that the agency has been aware of the problem and has frequently corresponded with owners of grain bins, offering helpful hints on how these employers can protect their workers. At least in some corners, it seems that OSHA's advice has not been heeded.
One of the advantages of Arizona's workers' compensation system is that it puts ultimate responsibility on employers to ensure that their workers are kept safe and healthy while on the job. Arizona's no-fault system allows a worker, even one who is working in a risky occupation like at a grain elevator, to collect medical expenses and lost income if they are injured on the job. Families that lose a loved one to a workplace accident may be able to receive reimbursement for some funeral expenses and lost wages through the workers' compensation system.
Source: The Journal Gazette, "Deaths in the workplace are no accident," Tom O'Connor, July 7, 2013