Over the past century, farming has become much easier and safer than ever before. Mechanization has greatly reduced the number of workers needed to grow and harvest crops, and has lessened the physical burdens each worker faces.
These are welcome changes, but agricultural work still has dangers that many of us fail to recognize. As Illinois farms prepare for planting this spring, now is a good time to discuss some of these hazards. Specifically, today’s post will focus on the dangers workers face at grain handling facilities.
Hazard No. 1: Grain dust explosions
As odd as it may sound, grain dust is highly combustible, and that can lead to explosions at grain silos and other handling/storage facilities. Grain dust gets kick up as harvested grain is moved (via a conveyor belt, trucks, etc.). If it comes in contact with an ignition source, the contact can trigger a catastrophic explosion. OSHA notes that in the past 35 years, the United States has seen more than 500 grain dust explosions, resulting in more than 180 deaths and more than 675 injuries. OSHA has strict standards for dust control at grain handling facilities that should be implemented at all times.
Hazard No. 2: Engulfment/entrapment and suffocation
Harvested grains are stored in silos and large piles while awaiting transport to customers. Although they may look solid enough to walk on, appearances are deceiving. Grain often acts like quicksand, pulling in workers as they walk on piles or enter storage silos. After sinking in, the workers can become trapped (and unable to free themselves) or suffocate due to lack of oxygen. No one should ever do this work without proper equipment and supervision.
Hazard No. 3: Falling injuries
Grain silos and elevators are full of ladders, catwalks and moving machinery. One wrong or careless step can result in a fall from significant heights, leading to injury or death. Workers should always be wearing fall protection gear and moving with the utmost care and attention when working off the ground.
These are just some of the hazards agricultural workers face as the growing season gets underway. If you have been injured in a farming or agricultural accident, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries. Please discuss your claim with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in your area.