As we launch the fourth annual Grain Bin Safety Week (Feb. 19-25), work still remains to reduce preventable grain entrapments and deaths associated with grain handling and storage. Record crop yields and increased on-farm grain storage occurred in 2016. More grain bins on farms and ranches can mean increased risk of grain entrapment, grain engulfment and other accidents if proper safe-work procedures aren’t followed.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that less than 7% of the nearly 770,000 grain bins on America’s farms are equipped with a harness and life line to prevent grain engulfment.1 Continued collaboration with the agricultural community and grain industry leaders will help raise awareness of grain bin safety.
Feed grain prices decreased 10% in 2016, while food grain prices decreased 15%, according to the USDA.2 In the same year, on-farm storage increased by 13% for wheat, 11% for corn and 2% for soybean storage.3 The combination of low prices and surplus grain is motivating farmers to store more grain in an attempt to capitalize on higher prices later in the year.
The U.S. Grains Council reported that the 2016 corn crop contained a higher moisture content and required more drying than the prior year.4 Moisture values can play a significant role in personal safety when wet grain causes workers to enter grain bins to contend with spoilage, bridging grain, equipment malfunction and other issues.
A study by Purdue University reported 24 documented grain entrapments in 2015, including 14 fatalities. Grain entrapments were the most common type of confined space incident. Additionally, there were six equipment entanglements resulting in one death, six falls into or from grain storage structures resulting in three deaths and four fatal cases of asphyxiation.5
For the first time since 2010, the number of confined space fatalities exceeded non-fatal incidents. The decrease in the total number of incidents is due to a significant drop in non-fatal incidents, which is likely attributed to underreporting of non-fatal grain entrapments. It is estimated that annual documented cases of these injuries and fatalities only represent about 70% of the total occurrences.5
It only takes seconds to become entrapped in grain and less than a minute to become completely engulfed. Once grain is above knee-level, it is nearly impossible to get out without assistance. Grain bin accidents are more likely to occur when workers or family members enter a grain bin without following safe grain bin entry procedures.
Grain entrapment and grain engulfment aren’t the only risks. Toxic atmospheres, augers, bin collapses, fires and explosions are equally hazardous. Safety education and training is crucial in identifying and understanding the risks associated with grain handling and storage.
We continue to share safe-work procedures, industry best practices and insights from subject matter experts to address the hazards of handling and storing grain, as well as methods to help keep workers safe from serious injuries and fatalities. This year’s topics include:
Attend a live webinar hosted by risk management professionals and industry experts. These webinars provide farmers and grain handlers with valuable insight into some of the topics listed above.
Grain rescue tubes are the only safe way to rescue someone entrapped in grain. Unfortunately, many fire departments and other first responders lack the equipment and training to perform a successful grain bin rescue.
Each year, Nominate Your Fire Department Contest winners receive a grain rescue tube, along with six hours of specialized training. In 2016, the contest awarded 19 rescue tubes across 14 states. Nominate your fire department for a grain rescue tube.
Partner with us by donating grain rescue tubes, rescue training and financial contributions, providing content or serving as a subject matter expert for Grain Bin Safety Week. To learn more about how your contribution can help save lives, please contact Doug Becker at (515) 508-5590 or via email.
A zero-entry mentality is the best practice to prevent deadly grain bin accidents. If you must enter a grain bin as a last resort, ask your local fire department if they are equipped with a grain rescue tube and grain rescue training.
“Until we can convince all farmers and other grain handlers to develop a zero-entry mentality, we will strive to make tubes available,” said Brad Liggett, president of Nationwide Agribusiness. Join us in our effort to help save lives in 2017.
 “2011 Farm and Ranch Safety Survey.” National Agricultural Statistics Service, Agricultural Statistics Board, USDA. May 30, 2013.
 “Agricultural Prices.” National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, USDA. December 29, 2016.
 “Grain Stocks.” NASS, Agricultural Statistics Board, USDA. January 12, 2017.
 “2016/2017 Corn Harvest Quality Report.” U.S. Grains Council. December 2016.
 “2015 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities” Agriculture News, Purdue University. February 2016.