Nineteen people were involved in grain bin accidents last year, a Purdue University report shows.
Six of those were reported in Indiana, of which two were deaths and another four were injuries.
Incidents have actually gone down nationally since 2010. But compared to previous decades, they have increased.
Many accidents happen when farm workers enter bins to break up grain that is formed into crusts. They fall into the large tanks of grain or get trapped in heavy machinery.
Purdue University agriculture professor Bill Field says there is a correlation between how much grain states produce and their number of accidents reported.
“We’re producing larger crops every year. So we just have more grain we’re handling, more storage bins, larger storage bins, you know, it’s increased the exposure,” he says.
But Indiana is an exception. Because Purdue University is located in the state, researchers say they can better track accidents here.
The report argues that if all states reported as well as Indiana, their injury rates would double.
Field says keeping bins at the right moisture level prevents grain from caking and keeping drain dry also makes economic sense because wet grain tends to spoil. But if the contents of a bin do become too wet, he says there are safe ways to deal with it that do not involve sending someone in – like contracting with a salvage company.
“They bring in a large vacuum cleaner,” he says. “It’s a huge 300-400 horse [power] vacuum cleaner that will literally suck up bowling balls. They open the side of the bin, and they just literally suck this crusted grain out.”
The recovered grain can be made into ethanol or low-grade feed.