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Iowa farm worker suffocates after becoming trapped in a storage bin filled with an unstable grain product.

Iowa Department of Public Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 93IA014, 1993 Oct; :1-3
A 42 year-old male farmworker (victim) from Iowa died after entering a storage grain bin filled with an unstable grain product. The victim was working with his father (also the owner of the farming operation) and co-worker. At the time of the incident the three men were loading grain from the storage bin onto a grain truck. The bin measures 37 feet in diameter, 40 feet in height, and has a storage capacity of 37,000 bushels. Also, at the time of the incident the owner estimated the inside height of the grain to be 14 feet at the middle and 10 feet at the perimeter. Prior to the incident the three men were auger feeding grain from the storage bin onto a truck. Some time during the process the grain stopped feeding out. The victim then climbed to the top of the bin, secured himself with a rope and safety harness (first time in 15 years) and entered the bin in an attempt to dislodge the grain from inside. The co-worker assisted the victim at the top of grain bin. The co-worker had not been trained as a standby person and was not aware of the responsibilities of that position. Once inside the bin the victim began dislodging the grain. While dislodging the grain it became unstable and swept the victim down to the bottom of the bin. The co-worker made an attempt to rescue the victim, but was not successful. The co-worker then left the scene to call the local fire department. Firefighters and other helpers cut holes in the side of the bin, to allow grain to flow out onto the ground. After about 90 minutes the victims dead body was found at the bottom of the bin. At some point during the incident the victims father left the incident site to deliver a load of grain. The IFACE investigator concluded that in order to prevent similar occurrences, an employer should: 1. Provide lifelines and harnesses, and ensure that workers wear them and are properly trained to use them before entering confined spaces containing unstable materials; 2. Develop and implement safe work procedures for employees who work in, or near, confined spaces containing unstable material; 3. Develop and implement a comprehensive confined space safety program that properly trains standby persons in the use of emergency rescue procedures; 4. Consider retrofitting bins and similar storage facilities with mechanical leveling/raking devices, or other means to minimize the need for workers to climb and enter storage bins.
Region-7; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Farmers; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-machinery; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Confined-spaces; Training
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-93IA014; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-708674
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Iowa Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division