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Grain engulfment poses serious danger to farm workers

The farming industry is a booming job market in Pennsylvania that carries the potential for many workplace accidents. These may include such incidents as faulty machinery causing an injury, products or equipment falling on a worker or livestock injuring someone. Farm workers may also be seriously injured or killed in incidents known as grain engulfment.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, grain engulfment occurs when a worker is buried or suffocated by grain in a silo or other grain storage compartment. There are numerous ways this can happen, which include the following:

  • A wall of grain, commonly corn, which caves in on a worker
  • Flowing grain that mimics quicksand, sucking a worker down in seconds
  • A “bridge” of clumped grain that caves in beneath a worker standing on it, burying him or her in the empty space that often forms beneath such bridges
  • Hazardous gases or unsafe oxygen levels present inside a storage bin, resulting in asphyxiation

It is also possible for other workers to become trapped in the silo in attempts to rescue a worker in danger.

The Lincoln Journal Star states that younger farm employees under the age of 21 are especially vulnerable to workplace accidents involving grain engulfment. About 20 percent of all reported engulfment accidents happened to workers under 21. Because of the extreme danger, federal law forbids those under the age of 16 to enter confined spaces on industrial sites.

Different types of safety equipment and procedures have been developed to rescue workers trapped in grain or prevent an accident from occurring in the first place. However, not all employers implement the proper procedures. Those who are affected by a negligent employer in industrial accidents may be eligible for compensation.

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