Rep. Bailey Reminder to Farmers on Grain Bin Safety: About 70% of Accidents Happen on Family Farms

State Rep. Darren Bailey is joining the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s (IDOA) and the Illinois Department of Labor’s (IDOL) efforts to remind farmers and elevator operators about ‘grain bin safety.’ In 2019 there were three deaths in Illinois related to grain bin incidents and this year there are already four reported incidents with loss of life.

“There is a continual need for grain bin safety reminders because grain storage is a particularly dangerous area on family farms and in other agricultural settings,” according to Rep. Bailey, a farmer himself. “Grain bin tragedies can literally happen in seconds because moving grain acts like quicksand and someone could lose their life in less than a minute.”

According to reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this should be a very good year for corn and soybean farmers in Illinois. The grain bins that will store this big harvest are key to the agricultural economy for getting it to market in a timely manner.

As the busy harvest season continues, it is important that farmers and other agricultural workers continue to put safety first, especially when working around grain-storage facilities. Last year, nationwide there were 38 grain entrapment cases with 23 of those leading to fatalities, according to a report by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program, which has documented these cases since the 1970s.

Three grain-entrapment cases were reported in Illinois for 2019. So far this year, eleven grain-entrapment cases have been reported in Illinois with four fatalities, according to Dave Newcomb, Agriculture Program Manager with the Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign.

A late harvest and wet conditions last year caused problems this spring. Wet grain tends to clump and not flow properly through the unloading systems, which can lead workers to enter the bins to rectify the situation. Corn in bad condition often leads to more grain bin accidents.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) details the three most common scenarios leading to grain entrapment:

• A worker stands on moving or flowing grain typically caused by an auger running or grain being moved out of the bin by gravity.

• A worker stands on or below a grain bridging situation. Bridging happens when damp grain clumps together, creating an empty space beneath the grain as it is unloaded. A worker above or below this bridge of grain is at risk should the bridge collapse.

• A worker stands next to an accumulated pile of grain on the side of the bin and attempts to dislodge it. It can collapse onto the worker.

While workers should avoid entering grain bins if possible, safety measures can greatly diminish the risk if they must enter. One of the most important measures is to turn off and lock out all powered equipment to the grain bin and tag it to remain off – known as Lock Out or Tag Out.

According to OSHA data, 60 percent of fatalities in grain entrapments cases are would-be rescuers and about seven in 10 occur on family farms.

For more information about grain bin safety suggestions, you can go online to the University of Illinois Extension page at: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/agsafety/equipment/grainbinsafety.cfm.