Experts say the high rate of silo deaths can be blamed on the large amounts of corn being stored in the U.S. to meet global demand for food, feed and ethanol-based fuel. The persistence of such deaths "reveals continuing flaws in the enforcement of worker safety laws and weaknesses in rules meant to protect the youngest farmworkers," Broder writes. Last year, the U.S. Labor Department attempted to strengthen farm child labor laws, but backed down after push-back from farmers who claimed they shouldn't be told by the government that their children can't work on the family farm. The legislation was never directed at farmers' families and wouldn't have covered conditions on small operations, which account for 70 percent of grain entrapments, Broder reports. Experts say most farmers are aware of the risks, but don't have the proper equipment or training to protect their workers against grain avalanche.
Purdue University agricultural professor William Field told Broder "virtually every entrapment is preventable" by following Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. Those guidelines require employers to turn off all power equipment before workers enter silos, provide workers with a harness or supporting chair and have an observer watch grain bin and silo workers at all times. (Read more)