By Jess McCluer, Vice President of Safety and Regulatory Affairs
Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program recently released its “2019 Summary of U.S. Agricultural and Confined-Space Related Injuries and Fatalities” report, which documents 38 grain entrapment cases that occurred in 2019.
The 38 cases represent an almost 27 percent increase in grain entrapments from 2018, when 30 entrapments were recorded. The total number of fatal and non-fatal entrapments is the highest in four years. In 2019, the state with the most documented grain entrapments — fatal and non-fatal — was Minnesota with seven cases total. Notably, Purdue does not specifically identify the number of grain entrapment cases that occurred on farm versus at commercial facilities. However, historically, 70 percent of grain entrapments have occurred on farms.
When it comes to all confined space-related incidents – including those not involving grain entrapment – 67 fatal and non-fatal cases were documented in 2019. This is a 10 percent increase from the number of cases documented in 2018, when 61 were recorded. Of these, 39 (58 percent) were fatal and 57 percent of all cases were directly related to grain entrapments. In addition, there were 11 incidents resulting from entanglements (i.e. exposure to powered mechanical components, such as augers). Of these incidents, five were fatal.
The summary is based on data gathered, documented and entered into Purdue’s Agricultural Confined Space Incident Database.
The causes behind the significant drop in non-fatal cases is unknown, but it is believed that most confined space incidents are underreported, especially those resulting in non-fatal grain entrapments. Based upon prior research, Purdue estimates that the documented annual cases represent 70 percent of the total number of cases that have occurred annually in the corn belt.
NGFA and its safety partners have the resources – including videos and regional safety seminars – to assist employers in preventing common grain entrapment hazards, as well as providing the appropriate safety standards for farms and commercial facilities.
The NGFA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as part of their joint alliance agreement, launched an annual major safety outreach effort in April 2018, the “Stand Up for Grain Safety Week.” Several of the topics for the 2020 “Stand Up” week on April 13-17 will focus on safety procedures for preventing grain bin entrapments. Employers are urged to use NGFA and OSHA safety materials to host safety seminars in conjunction with “Stand Up” week and other training related efforts.