Grain bin accidents can happen within minutes

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

With summer starting to wind down, local farmers are looking to where the new crop will go once the harvest starts to come in.  Grain bins provide a place where that crop can stay, waiting to weather fluctuations in the markets. 

Grain that was stored wet, or has taken on moisture while stored, can form bridges or cliffs inside the bin, under which is a void which can engulf anyone trying to break it up while inside.  Most bins unload from the bottom, and a vortex is created while emptying, that can pull under anyone trying to free lodged grain within the bin. 

Did you know?

  • In 4 seconds, an adult can sink knee-deep in the suction of flowing grain. At this point, he or she can’t free themself without help. (Source:  Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health)
  • Suffocation from engulfment is a leading cause of death in grain bins. (Source:  OSHA)
  • Flowing grain behaves like quicksand. An adult can be completely buried (engulfed) in 20 seconds. Most engulfed victims do not survive. (Source:  Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health)
  • From 2010 to 2019, there were 330 grain entrapment incidents reported.  47.6% of those were fatal. (Source:  Purdue University)
  • Most entrapment and engulfment events occur because workers enter a bin or storage structure to check on condition of grain or to address problems with grain flow due to spoiled grain or equipment malfunction. (Source:  Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health)
  • Around 80% of reported engulfments involve a person inside a bin or storage structure when grain-unloading equipment is running. Engulfments in flowing grain also occur in outdoor grain storage piles, grain wagons, rail cars, and semi-trailers that unload from the bottom. (Source:  Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health)
  • The best ways to prevent engulfment incidents are to eliminate the reasons for entering a bin in the first place, and to restrict unauthorized access by youth or other individuals who may be unaware of hazards. (Source:  Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health

Recently, the Kewanee Fire Department won a Great Wall of Rescue grain bin tube in a contest from Nationwide Insurance.  The County Wide Technical Rescue unit has also a grain bin tube that is housed at Cambridge, a purchase made with a donation from Country Financial.  Having this equipment in proximity to an entrapment accident makes a difference in response time and possibly the difference between life and death. 

Entrapment incidents within Henry County have occurred as recently as June of 2020, when two men were rescued from a bin in rural Geneseo.