Though the hazards of entering a grain bin are well-known, farmers and agricultural professionals often underestimate them until it’s too late. It only takes seconds, or a simple mistake, for an adult to sink in the quicksand-like flow of grain and become fully entrapped or engulfed. Such accidents have resulted in a 62 percent fatality rate over the past 50 years, according to Purdue University.
To raise awareness of these dangers and prevent all-too-common accidents, Nationwide has opened its eighth annual Nominate Your Fire Department Contest in recognition of Grain Bin Safety Week. The goal is to deliver critical education and resources to agricultural professionals and promote safe bin-entry procedures when entry is absolutely necessary. The program also awards life-saving rescue equipment and training to rural fire departments, who are often the first and only line of defense when an entrapment occurs. Nominations for this year’s Nominate Your Fire Department Contest are open until April 30.
“Working in one of America’s most dangerous industries, most farmers and agricultural professionals have likely heard tragic stories of accidents resulting from grain entrapments,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness at Nationwide, the country’s no. 1 farm and ranch insurer.1 “These incidents send shock waves through rural communities when they occur and continue to present a significant industry issue, as thousands of farmers and commercial grain handlers are exposed each year to the life-threatening hazards associated with entering grain structures to remove rotted or clumped grain.”
This year, Grain Bin Safety Week runs from Feb. 21 to 27 and has been officially recognized by the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Since initiating its Grain Bin Safety advocacy campaign in 2014, Nationwide has supplied grain rescue tubes and training to 152 fire departments in 29 states.
“Nationwide’s mission of protecting people, businesses and futures with extraordinary care directly aligns with our Grain Bin Safety advocacy program,” said Liggett. “Now more than ever, farmers are being recognized for the important role they play in food security and fueling our country. We are proud of our ability to provide grain rescue tubes and proper training to help protect the men and women who feed the world, and we aspire to make sure every fire department that needs it has access to these safety resources.”
At least four fire departments included in the program have utilized their tubes and training to rescue workers trapped in grain bins. In 2017, the Glenville Fire Department in Minnesota received a call to assist a local farmer who had fallen into a grain silo. Equipped with the grain rescue tube and training provided to the department nearly two years earlier, first responders were able to save the man’s life even though he’d been engulfed up to his face in flowing corn.
Injuries & Fatalities: The Startling Facts
- Suffocation from engulfment or oxygen-deficient atmospheres is the leading cause of death in grain accidents.
- In four seconds, an adult can sink knee-deep in flowing grain and be rendered unable to free themselves without help.
- Nearly 400 grain entrapments have been recorded in the past 10 years. It’s estimated an additional 30% of cases go unreported.
- In 2019, there were 38 grain entrapment cases — a 27% increase over 2018 and a four-year high.
- Grain entrapment deaths spiked in late 2019 and early 2020 as a result of wet harvest conditions — a United Press International report showed there were 19 deaths from August 2019 to mid-January 2020 alone, more than all of 2018.
- Historically, 70% of grain entrapments have occurred on farms vs. commercial facilities.
- Many of these farming accidents involve young people who often lack a good understanding of the potential dangers and proper safety procedures.
To help prevent further deaths and injuries, Nationwide collaborates each year with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) to provide safety training. NECAS instructors travel to training locations with state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulators and rescue tubes. The comprehensive training sessions include classroom education and rescue simulations using the entrapment tools, which are loaded onto 20-foot trailers and able to hold about 100 bushels of grain each.