Saturday, September 11, 2010

Grain Bin Accidents and Injuries and Minnesota Work Comp

In late July, two teenagers were killed in a tragic incident in Illinois grain elevator accident. Unfortunately, these types of accidents are all too common. In 2009 alone, there were at least 38 documented incidents of grain entrapment.

During fall harvest season, employees of grain elevators and grain processing companies need to be especially cognizant of the very serious hazards of serious injury or death due to grain bin accidents.

Following a rash of deaths and injuries of workers trapped in grain storage facilities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent a letter to grain elevator operators warning them to comply with federal safety laws. The letter noted that “OSHA has found that grain entrapments generally occur because of employer negligence, non-compliance with OSHA standards, and/or poor safety and health practices.”

OSHA is taking these incidents very seriously.

• On November 23, 2009, OSHA fined Tempel Grain Elevators LLP more than $1.5 million following the May 29, 2009 death of a teenage worker at the company's Haswell, Colorado grain storage operation. The youth suffocated after being engulfed by grain in one of the facility’s bins. The company also exposed three other teenage workers to the cited hazards.

• On May 27, 2010, OSHA fined the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association of Aberdeen, South Dakota more than $1.6 million following the death of a worker who had suffocated after being engulfed by grain. OSHA’s investigation found that five additional workers were also at risk of being engulfed when they were sent into the bin to dig the victim out.

• On August 4, 2010, OSHA fined Cooperative Plus, Inc. in Burlington, Wisconsin $721,000 after a worker was buried up to his chest and trapped in frozen soybeans. The worker was ultimately rescued after a four hour ordeal.

According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, there are an average of 12 grain entrapments reported each year across the nation. Three-fourths of these entrapments resulted in death, and two-thirds of the entrapments occurred inside grain bins. Three-quarters of the entrapments occurred when grain was being unloaded. Most frequently, it involved out of condition corn. A quarter of the entrapments involved children.

In addition to the extreme hazard of entrapment, other dangers of working with grain include respiratory problems, fires, and noise exposure. Electrical hazards exist with over-head power lines, portable augers and electric motors. Mechanical hazards include augers, dryers, stirrers and other equipment. Falls from ladders or other structures is also a danger associated with grain handling.

Entrapment can occur from flowing grain which can pull a worker down into the grain due to the force of the grain flowing out of a bin. Poorly conditioned grain can form a hard crust on the surface of grain in a bin, but pockets beneath the surface can collapse, causing the worker to fall and become entrapped in the grain. A worker removing grain from the wall of a bin may also become entrapped by an avalanche of grain if the encrusted grain suddenly collapses.

Employees of grain elevators in Minnesota are generally covered for workers’ compensation. If you are injured as a result of working at a grain processing company, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits, medical expense benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation benefits. Family members of persons killed in grain bin accidents may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation death and dependency benefits.

If you were hurt in a grain accident, or if your loved one was seriously injured or killed as a result of a Minnesota grain bin accident, it is important to consult with a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer to make sure your rights are protected. Here at Meuser & Associates, we are committed to protecting the rights of injured workers in Minnesota. Contact us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at

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