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Silo deaths remain a threat to farm workers in Illinois

Workplace accidents remain a threat for workers throughout the country, especially for farm workers. While the rate of workplace injuries and fatalities has slowly declined, the number of farm workers dying in grain bin and silo accidents remains steady.

The yearly number of silo and grain bin accidents has actually increased during the past decade, with 26 reported deaths in 2010. Farm safety advocates are baffled as to why silo and grain bin accidents continue to happen while overall farm accidents have declined, claiming that these types of accidents are very easy to prevent.

Why exactly are silos and grain bins dangerous to farm workers? Silo and grain bin accidents usually happen after the silos and grain bins become full of corn, wheat or soy bean grains. The grains then begin to build up on the sides of the silo. To get the grains off the side of the silo, workers go into the building to scrape off the built up grains.

Scraping off the built up grains or walking on top of the grain is very dangerous and it has resulted in the grains flowing out of control and suffocating farm workers. Farm safety experts say that when the grains overflow, it becomes like an avalanche that ends up crushing the worker in the silo.

Safety advocates are confused as to why silo and grain bin deaths continue to happen on U.S. farms. Many farm safety experts say that these deaths are very preventable as long as farms follow the OSHA safety guidelines listed below:

  • The air should be tested for toxic gases before any worker enters.
  • Before workers enter the silo, turn off all power equipment.
  • Workers should be wearing a safety harness or supporting chair.
  • Another worker should be monitoring and observing the work.
  • No worker should enter silo when grain is built up on the sides or overhead.

Farm owners and companies can be held liable for not following proper farm safety guidelines. Injured farm workers should work with a personal injury attorney to learn about the ways they can receive compensation for their injuries.

Source: The New York Times, "Silos Loom as Death Traps on American Farms," John M. Broder, Oct. 28, 2012

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