You know the old saying: You can never be too careful. That certainly holds true in agriculture and farming, and grain storage specifically. Injuries and fatalities involving entry into grain bins and other grain storage facilities reached new highs in 2010 – with 52 cases being reported nationwide through November 2010, half of which ended with a fatality. Of those 52 cases, 35 occurred on farms.

Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board, says the numbers, compiled by Purdue University, are alarming because they are the highest recorded in a single year by the researchers at Purdue.

“On average, 70% of incidents happen on farms and half of all incidents result in the death of a farmer or farm worker,” Brunkhorst says. “Working in and around grain bins can be very dangerous. Flowing grain can completely engulf a worker in seconds.”

Horizontally crusted grain is like a bridge and can collapse and immediately bury farmers walking across the top of it. The collapse of crusted grain on the side of a bin is like an avalanche that can break bones or bury workers.

“People can suffocate with only 12 in. of grain covering them because the weight of the grain prevents movement,” Brunkhorst says.

To alert farmers to this important issue, the Nebraska Corn Board’s latest CornsTALK newsletter features a cover story on grain entrapment, including the types of engulfment and contributing factors. It notes that a lot of farmers store grain on their farms. Nebraska, for example, has an on-farm grain storage capacity of 1.1 billion bushels. Capacity nationwide is 12.5 billion bushels and expanding every year.

“Out-of-condition grain is the number one contributing factor of grain entrapments,” Brunkhorst says. “In 2009, a lot of out-of-condition corn was put into storage simply because it didn’t dry down in the field. Unfortunately, we saw the results of that in 2010’s grain entrapment numbers. We want to encourage farmers to be diligent and train their family members and workers on the hazards of working in and around grain bins and discuss what to do should an accident occur.”