Safety contest helps defend against grain bin deaths

Wisconsin State Farmer
Flowing grain can act like quicksand beneath someone in a bin and can fully engulf them within 20 seconds, as shown in this photo illustration.

For rural Americans, seeing grain bins dot the landscape is often an everyday occurrence. However, these storage structures pose very serious and threatening dangers to agriculture workers if proper health and safety procedures aren’t followed.

In just 20 seconds, a farmer can sink in the quicksand-like flow of grain and become fully entrapped with little hope for survival. Such accidents have resulted in 81 deaths over the past five years.

To bring attention to the dangers and prevent these tragic accidents, the leading insurer of farms and ranches in the U.S.1, Nationwide, has opened its ninth annual Nominate Your Fire Department Contest in recognition of Grain Bin Safety Week. The annual advocacy campaign aims to deliver critical education and resources to agricultural professionals while also supplying life-saving rescue equipment and training to rural fire departments, who are often the first and only line of defense when an entrapment occurs. Nominations for this year’s Nominate Your Fire Department Contest are open until April 30.

“Grain Bin Safety Week is one of many efforts in place to help address the dangers they face. These accidents send shockwaves through rural communities each year, and the reality is, they are often preventable," said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness at Nationwide. 

This year, Grain Bin Safety Week runs from Feb. 20-26 and has been officially recognized by the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Since initiating its Grain Bin Safety advocacy campaign in 2014, Nationwide has supplied grain rescue tubes and training to 207 fire departments in 31 states. At least five successful rescues have taken place using the resources provided through the program.

Injuries & Fatalities: The Startling Facts

  • Suffocation from engulfment or oxygen-deficient atmospheres is the leading cause of death in grain accidents.
  • In 4 seconds, an adult can sink knee-deep in flowing grain and be rendered unable to free themselves without help.
  • More than 150 grain entrapments have been recorded in the past five years. It’s estimated an additional 30% of cases go unreported.
  • In 2020, there were 35 grain entrapment cases resulting in 20 fatalities.

To help prevent further deaths and injuries, Nationwide collaborates each year with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) to provide safety training. NECAS instructors travel to training locations with state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulators and rescue tubes.

The comprehensive training sessions include classroom education and rescue simulations using the entrapment tools, which are loaded onto 20-foot trailers and able to hold about 100 bushels of grain each.

For more information about the program, purpose or nomination process, visit www.grainbinsafetyweek.com.