Farm youth killed when caught in sweep auger inside a silo at family farm, New York

New York Case Report: 20NY025


On August 4, 2020, at approximately 9:00 p.m., an 11-year-old youth from a Mennonite farm family was fatally injured while cleaning corn off a silo floor. The silo is 50 feet in height and 14 feet in diameter and has a bottom unloader (Photo 1). The sweep auger of the unloader circles the silo floor, moving corn towards a center hopper and the exit auger located underneath the silo floor. The exit auger transports and deposits the corn to a collection container outside the silo. At the time of the incident, there were approximately eight inches of corn on the silo floor. The decedent went inside the silo alone and proceeded to shovel and move the corn towards the center area of the silo and into the hopper. The sweep auger had been left on to aid in the removal of corn. It was rotating and circling while the decedent was inside shoveling. The decedent finished cleaning out one side of the silo and was proceeding to clean the other side. At approximately 9:00 p.m., minutes after the father last saw his son, the father discovered that the decedent was caught by the sweep auger. It appeared that the tip of the sweep auger, which is approximately 10 to 12 inches from the silo wall, caught the decedent’s pant leg. The father immediately shut off the unloader and called 911. Even though the emergency responders arrived at the scene quickly, they were unable to save the youth. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the coroner at 9:25 p.m. The cause of death was due to multiple crushing injuries.

Occupational injuries and fatalities are often the result of one or more contributing factors or key events in a larger sequence of events. The NY FACE investigation identified the following key contributing factors in this incident:

  • Lockout/Tagout procedures were not followed. Power to the silo unloader was left on, which provides power and drive to the sweep auger.
  • Standard Lockout/Tagout procedures detailing how to lock out the unloader before entering silo for cleaning or maintenance tasks did not exist.
  • Occupant, the decedent youth, was in the silo with the sweep auger rotating and circling around the silo.
  • The sweep auger was not guarded.
  • The protruding objects on the sweep auger increased the risk of entanglement.
  • The lighting inside the silo was inadequate.
  • The occupant, the decedent youth, was in the silo alone with no attendant outside to aid or rescue.
  • The decedent youth, who was assigned to work in an environment with high risk of entanglement, may have lacked the maturity to understand the nature of the risk due to his age.

NY FACE investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences:

  • Farm owners should ensure that no one enters a silo unless the power to the sweep auger is turned off and locked out.
  • Farm owners should deploy engineering controls to prevent workers from contacting energized sweep augers.
  • Farm owners should implement a safe silo/grain bin entry procedure to eliminate confined space hazards and ensure entrants’ safety.
  • Farm owners should provide adequate artificial light source to illuminate silo interior.
  • Farm owners should assign age-appropriate tasks to farm youth and provide proper training and supervision.

Farm youth killed when caught in sweep auger inside a silo at family farm New York [PDF 1,752 KB]