Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grain bin deaths reach record high in 2010

Deaths from grain-bin accidents hit a record high in 2010. Judith Graham of the Chicago Tribune reports, "51 men and boys were engulfed by grain stored in towering metal structures that dot rural landscapes, and 26 died — the highest number on record, according to a report issued by Purdue University." (Tribune graphic)

"Accidents can occur when someone enters a bin to break up clumps that form when grains are moist and have started decomposing", Graham writes. When someone steps into flowing grain they can sink up to the chest, becoming immobilized within 10 seconds. Within another 10 seconds the person can be submerged and unable to breathe, Jeffrey Adkisson, executive vice president of the Grain & Feed Association of Illinois, told Graham, adding, "The 2009 corn crop was a particularly wet one, leading to more stuck-together grain than usual. In turn, that caused more workers to go into grain bins in 2010, exposing them to potential danger."

Graham writes, "If machinery is on, helping to keep corn flowing, a sinkhole can form and pull down a worker who gets too close. Or corn caked on the sides of a bin can collapse like an avalanche, burying someone. Or someone may walk across the top of the corn, thinking it's safe, and plunge under the surface."

With proper safeguards, almost all such accidents are preventable, Graham reports. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends "turning off machinery that helps move grain when someone enters a grain bin, and using body harnesses so workers can be pulled to safety," Graham writes. (Read more)

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