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Farm worker suffocates in flowing grain while clearing a blocked grain auger.

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 98IA043, 1998 Dec; :1-4
A farm worker suffocated to death after being engulfed in flowing grain while trying to clear a blocked auger. Two workers were emptying a grain bin at a grain elevator owned by a large farm in northeastern Iowa. The auger had stopped moving corn indicating there was a blockage at the auger intake inside the bin. Both men entered the bin from the access door at the top of the 50-foot tall bin. They had probes and shovels with them for the clearing work. They had left the auger running and probed the corn with metal bars around the auger opening in the middle of the bin floor. The corn was approximately 10 feet deep at the sides and 6-8 feet deep in the middle of the 36-foot diameter bin. The blockage suddenly cleared and the flowing corn immediately began to suck one of the workers down. The other worker was looking the other way and was alerted by his co-worker yelling for help. He tried to assist his co-worker to get out but struggled to save himself from being pulled down as well. He scrambled out of the bin, turned off the auger and summoned for help. The controls for the auger were outside the bin and during the time it took to get out of the flowing corn, climb to the top access door, and down to the ground controls, the victim was engulfed in corn. No fall protection devices or lifelines were used and there was no emergency stop system for the auger. The rescue crews arrived and had some difficulty accessing the 50-foot tall bin. There was a side door at the bottom of the bin, but it was still under corn and not used during rescue. The victim was taken to a regional health center but was pronounced dead on arrival. Recommendations based on our investigation are as follows: 1. Employers should provide rescue equipment, training and adequate supervision to ensure that safe practices are followed while workers are entering grain bins. 2. Grain handling facility owners should install "chairs" over the center unloading auger openings. 3. Farmers and grain storage operators should ensure that adequate measures are taken to avoid spoilage of grain during storage.
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; Grain-elevators; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-machinery; Agricultural-processes; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture; Training; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Confined-spaces
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-98IA043; 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