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New report shows agricultural confined space-related injuries

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Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program has released the annual 2020 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities report. The program reported 64 fatal and nonfatal cases involving agricultural confined spaces, including 35 grain entrapments, seven falls into or from grain storage structures, four asphyxiations and 12 equipment entanglements.

First, the report found some good news with the total number of cases represents a 4.5% decrease from the number documented in 2019. However, this year’s total agricultural confined space-related cases exceeds the five-year average and the number of reported mining-related fatalities in 2020.

Other finding from the report include: 

  • Three incidents involved more than 1 victim
  • Eight additional grain dust explosions resulting in nine non-fatal injuries were documented
  • Three incidents involved manure storage pits or lagoons
  • Three female cases were documented in 2020, two of which involved falls from storage structures
  • 50% (32) of 2020 cases were fatal compared to 61% historically
  • Illinois reported the most cases in 2020 (17), which was more than double the next two highest reporting states, Minnesota and North Dakota
  • Illinois also reported the most grain-entrapment cases in 2020 (10). Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois have historically recorded the most grain entrapment cases
  • Six cases in 2020 involved a youth under the age of 21, none of which involved grain entrapment and one involved manure handling or storage

“As is well documented in past annual summaries, there is a direct correlation between out-of-condition grain and an increased likelihood of worker exposure to entrapment situations,” the report states. “Never enter a grain bin with evidence of crusting on the surface or within the grain mass. If the grain is crusted or the floor outlets are plugged, contact a professional grain salvage service that has the equipment and experience to remove out-of-condition grain.”

Purdue’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program has monitored grain storage, handling and transport incidents for 40 years using sources including news reports, web searches, personal interviews and voluntary reporting from extension educators and individuals. Despite no comprehensive or mandatory agriculture incident or injury reporting system, the group aims to bring public awareness to agriculture injuries and fatalities to develop safety mitigation strategies.

The full report and grain safety resources are available on the Purdue website.

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