Oklahoma has hundreds of livestock farms and ranches of all sizes, many of which have storage facilities for grain and other feed. A study that is conducted annually by Purdue University tracks the number of accidents connected to grain handling, and its report for 2016 has revealed a significant increase in fatalities over the previous year.
The study showed a total of 29 grain entrapment incidents around the country in 2016. These are defined as situations in which a worker climbs into a silo to loosen grain that has clogged or otherwise stopped flowing and then ends up being engulfed by the material. This number represented an increase of slightly more than 20 percent from the number of such incidents in 2015. A total of 18 workers were fatally entrapped in 2016 compared to 14 in the previous year. The Purdue study also found that 22 other workers died in non-entrapment grain incidents, including falls in a silo.
A Purdue professor who was involved in the study indicated that these numbers may be understated. The data is based in part on statistics compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but only farms with more than 10 employees are required to report these incidents to OSHA. The agency does have a rule dealing with grain handling and silos. Workers who are being lowered into one are required to be tethered, and there has to be at least one observer at all times.
Even when all OSHA safety protocols are followed, these types of workplace accidents will unfortunately continue to take place. The family of a farm worker who has been killed in one may want to meet with an attorney to see if they qualify for survivor benefits under the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage.