More than 60 percent of grain bin engulfment cases occur in facilities that are exempt from Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. That’s mostly family on-farm storage units. Only 30 percent of engulfment cases come from OSHA non-exempt facilities. Another 9 percent are of unknown exemption status.

A significant number of those exempt cases involve children and the fatality rate of children involved in grain engulfment is staggering, 70 percent. More instances and more fatalities occur from engulfment than from grain bin explosions. A Purdue University study that examined grain bin accidents from 1964 through 2010 found 600 cases of explosions and 250 deaths, a 20-percent fatality rate. During that same time, engulfment cases totaled 900 with 550 deaths and a 62-percent fatality rate.

The frequency of grain bin engulfment has increased by 7 cases per decade with a spike in 2011 following bumper crops of grain in the Midwest, according to the study.

Those sobering statistics underscore the importance of developing and following, meticulously, grain bin safety procedures on commercial and privately-owned grain storage facilities. David Smith, Texas AgriLife Extension specialist, says training employees and making safety a priority are keys to protecting workers from what could be a horrific tragedy.

If you are enjoying reading this article, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox

Smith, speaking at the recent Coastal Bend Grain Storage and Handlers Safety Conference in Sinton, Texas, noted several recent cases from the Midwest in which poor safety procedures resulted in multiple deaths from grain engulfment. At least one of those cases involved teen-aged workers.