Agriculture workers in North Carolina and nationwide continue to face hazards in grain silos, according to a new report on grain handling accidents. The report, conducted by Purdue University, comes out at a time when some agriculture industry groups are pushing for the discontinuation of federal safety awareness programs on grain handling.
According to the report, there were 29 grain entrapment accidents in 2016. This was an increase of 21 percent over the previous year. Entrapment deaths also increased, with 18 workers losing their lives in 2016, compared to 14 workers in 2015. Despite the spike in incidents, the five-year average for entrapment accidents dipped from 30.2 in 2015 to 29.4 in 2016. This is because the recent high of 59 entrapment accidents in 2010, which led to 31 deaths, fell out of the five-year average.
Entrapment isn’t the only way workers are killed or injured by grain. The report found that 42 grain accidents involving machinery entanglement, asphyxiation and falls killed another 22 workers in 2016. According to a professor at Purdue, accidents are likely underreported because the U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t require commercial grain handling facilities to report injuries that don’t require hospitalization. Small farms and other job sites exempt from OSHA regulations are also not required to report accidents.
Agricultural workers injured in grain-related incidents or other accidents may be eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are designed to help workers pay for medical expenses and other financial obligations while they recover from their injuries. Some workers find it helpful to meet with an attorney before filing a claim.