Safety experts aren't surprised. Despite the best efforts of the media and safety specialists to caution people about the dangers of grain entrapment trying to get a very poor 2009 crop out of the bin, the number of incidents have shot up nationwide. Poor quality and disease issues that led to spoilage in the 2009 crop set the stage for most of these disasters.
Purdue University's Bill Field, farm safety specialist, jus tissue a report showing that at least 46 entrapments have occurred in the U.S during the first 10 months of 2010. "That eclipses the previous record of 43 for the entire year for the U.S. in 1993," Field says.
The fatality rate for these types of incidents continues to remain high. Twenty-five of the 46 so far this year have been fatalities. The rest involved rescue and injury. Further, thirty-three of the entrapments have occurred on farms, while 13 were at commercial grain facilities.
Looking back through the years, Filed says there is a close relationship between poor quality grain and the number of incidents related to grain entrapments. And he suspects that many incidents that aren't fatal go unreported. So the number of cases where someone got caught in grain were likely much higher. In fact, he believes it could be 20 to 30% higher nationwide.
The problem is worse this year in the Midwest, which is no surprise. Illinois leads with 10 reported cases, followed by Minnesota with eight, and Iowa and Wisconsin with five each.
To prevent further problems the rest of the year, Field urges caution, and insists there is no reason to be inside a bin with the auger running. He suggests locking out the auger motor so no one can come by and turn it on while you are in there.
While the quality of the 2010 crop was much better with few disease problems, Richard Stroshine, Purdue grain quality specialist, says farmers are not off the hook. Because a lot of the grain was binned while temperatures were very warm, there are some spoilage issues. He has already received calls about such conditions from farmers.
Stoshine's advice is to aerate three times, or as long as it takes, to get inside grain temperature down to outside air temperatures, until the final inside grain temperature is just above freeing. That will help prevent problems. In addition, core bins of possible to remove fines. That's where many problems start, he concludes.