By Jess McCluer, Vice President of Safety and Regulatory Affairs
Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program last month released its “2020 Summary of U.S. Agricultural and Confined-Space Related Injuries and Fatalities” report, which documents 35 grain entrapment cases that occurred in 2020.
The 35 cases represent an almost 8 percent decline in grain entrapments from 2019, when 38 entrapments were recorded. The total number of fatal and non-fatal entrapments is the second highest in the past six years. In 2020, the state with the most documented grain entrapments — fatal and non-fatal — was Illinois with 10 cases total. In 2019, Minnesota had the most with seven cases. 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 – 64 fatal and non-fatal cases were documented in 2020. This is a nearly 5 percent decrease from the number of cases documented in 2019, when 64 were recorded. Of these, 32 (50 percent) were fatal and 55 percent of all cases were directly related to grain entrapments. In addition, there were 12 incidents resulting from entanglements (i.e. exposure to powered mechanical components, such as augers). Of these incidents, three 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 with the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) and the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, launched an annual major safety outreach effort, the “Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week.” Several of the topics for the 2020 “Stand Up” week on March 29-April 2 focused on safety procedures for preventing grain bin entrapments.