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Farmer suffocates under grain while using a grain vacuum.

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 98IA035, 1998 Nov; :1-4
A 64-year-old farmer and owner of a grain vacuum service died while vacuuming corn out of a grain bin. He was hired by another farmer to empty a 10,000 bushel bin because the unloading auger had malfunctioned. He was using his grain vacuum, powered by a 150 horsepower tractor power take-off (PTO). He was working alone inside the bin, vacuuming out the fifth truckload of corn from this bin. The normal procedure is to keep the intake nozzle inserted in the grain at a shallow angle and frequently move it to different locations in the bin to keep the grain surface fairly even. Momentarily the farm owner went to check on the victim and noticed he was missing, and after searching the area, assumed he was still in the bin. The victim was located by probing with a rod, found submerged under three feet of grain. His body position was horizontal, lying a few feet from the vacuum tube, with his feet pointed towards the tube. The vacuum had been in this location long enough to create a fairly deep cone depression. The vacuum was left running, and was used by the farm worker to remove grain from above and around the victim. Rescue workers cut holes in the sides of the bin, yet it still took approximately 40 minutes to rescue the man. Resuscitation efforts failed and the farmer was declared dead upon arrival at the hospital. Autopsy results ruled out heart attack and could not confirm or rule out other loss of consciousness. The farmer had been doing this type of work for 11 years and was very experienced with the vacuuming work and hazards involved. The official cause of death was from suffocation. Recommendations based on our investigation are as follows: 1. Employers and grain handlers should ensure that safe confined space entry practices are followed while entering grain bins. 2. Grain vacuums should have an emergency stop device. 3. Grain vacuum operators should be made aware of hazardous conditions caused by spoiled/clumped grain. 4. Grain vacuum operators must follow manufacturer's guidelines for safe operation, including working at a shallow angle, and moving the vacuum intake frequently.
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; Confined-spaces; Vacuum-equipment; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-machinery; Agricultural-processes; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture
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-98IA035; 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