National Farm Safety & Health Week continues throughout this week in Illinois. Illinois OHSA wants to remind farmers that grain storage is one of the most dangerous areas on a family farm. Last year, nationwide there were 30 grain entrapment cases with 15 of those leading to fatalities, according to Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program, which has documented these cases since the 1970s. Only two grain entrapment cases were reported in Illinois. However, safety experts believe that some non-fatal entrapments do not get reported.
Illinois OSHA Director Ben Noven describes some of the scenarios that can cause grain entrapment for a farmer and a way to prevent entrapment from happening. “First and foremost, always remember to turn off and lock out or tag out any powered equipment to the grain bin. As an example, imagine if a worker who was in the bin when another worker nearby did not know that somebody was inside turned on the equipment. This is just a recipe for disaster. Moving grain acts like quicksand, and within a matter of seconds a worker can be totally engulfed.”
OSHA also says any worker entering a grain bin should be provided with a body harness attached to a lifeline and an observer should be stationed outside the bin to track the worker and help if something goes wrong. A worker standing in moving grain will be trapped within 5 seconds and completely covered in 30 seconds. Grain entrapment is not the only concern upon entering a grain bin. Air inside a bin can be hazardous, even deadly, from decaying grain or fumigation. The air should always be tested before any worker enters a bin.