This article summarizes a reportreleased at the end of May by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program on reported agricultural confined space-related injury and fatality cases documented during 2022.
The program has documented and entered into Purdue’s Agricultural Confined Space Incident Database more than 2,460 fatal and non-fatal agricultural confined space cases since 1977.
There were 42 fatal and non-fatal grain entrapment cases documents in 2022, representing a 44.8% increase from the 29 recorded in 2021 and substantially higher than the five-year average of 34.8 cases per year.
The total of combined fatal and non-fatal grain entrapment cases, was the highest annual frequency over the past decade.
Nevertheless, the five-year running average continues to be below its peak of 40.4 in 2011.
Of the 2022 reported entrapment cases, 35.7% resulted in a fatality, lower than the five-year average.
State review. In 2022, the state with the most documented grain entrapments (fatal and non-fatal), was Iowa with nine, followed by Minnesota with five, and both Indiana and Missouri with four cases.
Overall, grain entrapments were documented in 16 states in 2022.
The majority of grain entrapment cases (64.3%) occurred in the Midwest (Corn Belt).
Historically, 74% of previously documented cases have occurred in the Corn Belt region.
Demographic breakdown. All documented grain entrapment cases in 2022 involved males.
Five (12%) involved those under the age of 21, a demographic that has represented up to 20% of cases in the past.
The oldest victim of grain entrapment was 75.
The average age was 41.3 years old, and the median age was 42.
In over 52.4% of the cases, the specific age could not be documented; however, review of the reports strongly indicates that nearly all were adults.
In 2022, there were a total of 83 cases documented, including:
> 42 grain entrapments.
> 4 falls into or form grain storage structures
> 7 asphyxiations due to deficient oxygen levels or toxic environments.
> 7 equipment entanglements (such as those involved in-floor and sweep augers) that occurred while working inside agricultural confined spaces.
> 18 cases involving grain handling facility fires or explosions.
The 83 cases represented a 40.7% increase from the number of cases documented in 2021, when 59 were recorded.
The number of 2022 cases was more than both the five-year average (66.8 cases per year) and the 10-year average (63.6 cases per year).
Deaths. During 2022, there were 59 non-fatal and 24 fatal cases documented.
The 24 fatal cases were well below the five- and 10-year averages of 29 and 27.9 cases per year, respectively.
The 59 non-fatal cases were substantially higher than the five-year average of 37.8.
The report also included analysis of the role of out-of-condition grain on entrapments:
As DM Kingman identified nearly 20 years ago, there is a direct relationship between the probability of an entrapment in grain and the presence of out-of-condition, or spoiled grain.
For many years the phrase “flowing grain” was used to identify the entrapment hazards associated with grain storage and handling, when in fact it is non-flowing grain that poses the greatest risk.
Nearly all cases examined in 2022, in which adequate details were available, involved grain that was non-flowing due to spoilage.
Contributing factors included attempting to store grain at moisture content levels above 14%, improper in-bin drying practices such as re-wetting grain using moist outside air, and leaks in the structure that allowed moisture to access dry grain.
In other words, far more grain-related entrapments could have been prevented (and lives saved) by promoting proper storage techniques than could be achieved by providing training on emergency grain rescue strategies.