WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- The number of grain bin entrapments and resulting fatalities in the U.S. rose last year to their highest levels since 2010, due in part to the large amount of grain being stored on farms after a record harvest, a Purdue University expert says.
Bill Field, professor of agricultural health and safety, said the risk was greatest for inexperienced and young farm workers.
"Dealing with a mountain of grain can be very hazardous," Field said.
"If you're working around grain for the first time and you might not be aware of the risks involved, the potential for an accident is much higher."
Entrapments typically happen when a farm worker enters a bin or silo to break up clumps of out-of-condition grain during loading or unloading, Field said.
Nationwide, there were 38 documented entrapments resulting in 17 deaths in 2014, compared with 33 entrapments and 13 deaths in 2013, according to Purdue's annual Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities.
Entrapments were reported in 16 states, mostly in the Midwest. Minnesota led the nation with six documented incidents. Indiana and Iowa had four each while Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota each reported three. Michigan had two, while Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina had one each.
Ohio reported no grain entrapment cases in 2014.
The highest recorded totals in any year were 59 entrapments, including 26 deaths, in 2010.
Field said the number of documented entrapments has increased in recent years, partly from better reporting.
"Over the past few years the surveillance effort was expanded to include not only entrapments in grain but other types of agricultural confined space incidents," he said.
There were 70 total confined space incidents in American agricultural facilities last year - 38 entrapments, 12 falls, nine fire-related injuries, eight entanglements and three asphyxiations - compared with 67 in 2013.
Overall, confined space incidents were reported in 20 states in 2014, compared with 17 states in 2013.
Minnesota and Ohio led the nation with nine reported confined space accidents each. Ohio's total included seven workers who were injured in a fire inside a grain storage unit.
Indiana, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin reported five cases each. There were four cases each in Michigan, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
North Dakota and South Dakota each reported three cases, while Kansas, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and New York had two each.
Single cases were reported in Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina and Idaho.
For more information on the report and Purdue's agricultural confined spaces program, visit www.agconfinedspaces.org.