Access to Grain Storage Facilities

Following a double fatal accident in which two workers were overcome in an oxygen deficient atmosphere in a grain storage structure the Health & Safety Authority advise as follows:

Owners and operators of facilities which have grain storage structures (elevator shafts, bins and silos) should be aware that such structures may be confined spaces due to their enclosed construction. Activities associated with entry to these spaces needs to be assessed as part of the safety management system in line with the Code of Practice "Safe Work In Confined Spaces".

Storage structures for grain have significant hazards associated with them. Due to the enclosed nature of these structures, the atmosphere inside can become oxygen depleted and/or a toxic atmosphere can accumulate from the decomposition process of organic matter. Carbon dioxide (which is heavier than air) and other gases can cause the displacement of oxygen over the grain.

All operators and owners should ensure that storage structures are sufficiently ventilated and controls are in place to ensure the safety of personnel entering these structures. Personnel should be adequately trained with appropriate emergency procedures and equipment in place.

Never enter a confined space to rescue a worker who has collapsed unless the proper personal protection equipment is available and you have received the appropriate training on confined space entry.

The HSA Code of Practice, "Safe Work In Confined Spaces" includes the Confined Space Regulations 2001, a guide on interpretation and implementation of the regulations and sample permit-to-work forms. This Code of Practice is available on the HSA website