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grain bin power panel
SHUT DOWN POWER: One way to prevent a grain bin accident is to shut off the auger. Bill Field says you might also buy a lock to lock the power out in case someone else happens by with you in the bin.

8 reasons why working in confined spaces is still an issue in ag

A recent report provides details about grain entrapments and other incidents in confined spaces.

Think twice before you go into that grain bin you’re trying to empty with the auger still running. If thinking twice doesn’t persuade you to turn off the auger and take other precautions before going into the bin, then think a third time. Think as many times as it takes until you decide it’s not worth the risk.

If you need numbers and statistics to prove this is a dangerous move, Bill Field obliges. The Purdue University farm safety specialist just released the 2016 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-related Injuries and Fatalities. The numbers aren’t pretty.

Purdue’s Ag Safety and Health Program maintains the Purdue Ag Confined Space Incident Database. Field says funding for this year’s surveillance effort was partially provided by the Grain Journal. Learn about it at

The new report would be good reading for anyone considering working inside a grain bin or other confined space on the farm. Do yourself a favor and at least consider these eight significant findings based on the report prepared by Field and his staff.

1. More cases were documented in 2016 vs. 2015. Training and education are helping, but the battle is far from over. There were 60 fatal and nonfatal cases involving agricultural confined spaces in 2016. That’s a 25% increase in documented cases vs. 2015.

2. Grain entrapments account for nearly half of the 2016 incidents. Just under half of all cases involved grain entrapment in a bin or silo. Other types of confined-space incidents include falls, entanglements and asphyxiation.

3. The percentage of fatal cases remains high. The problem with confined-space incidents is they often end tragically, Field notes. Of the total incidents in 2016, 50% were fatal. Historically, 61% have been fatal.

4. Indiana is among the leaders in confined-space incidents. Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana reported the most confined-space cases in 2016. Historically, the leaders are Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota.

5. The number of grain entrapments was up in 2016. There were 29 cases of grain entrapment last year. That’s a 21% increase over 2015.

6. Indiana tops grain entrapment cases. States with the most incidents in 2016 were Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Based on history, the states with the most grain bin entrapment cases are Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.

7. Too many cases in 2016 involved young people. Age is not reported in many of the cases that are documented. However, of the documented grain entrapments where age was known in 2016, 28% involved children under the age of 21.

8. Reporting regions 5 and 7 account for two-thirds of all confined-space incidents. Indiana, Illinois and Ohio are in Region 5. States west of Illinois in the Midwest make up Region 7. These regions are defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


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