Silo deaths continue in the U.S.

Congerville Grain Storage

Photo by Douglas Coulter via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The New York Times recently ran a story about the cause of a small but persistent number of deaths on U.S. farms each year: grain storage buildings, or—more accurately—employers’ failure to ensure that proper safety procedures are followed when workers are in them. As John M. Broder reports,

Even as the rate of serious injury and fatalities on American farms has fallen, the number of workers dying by entrapment in grain bins and silos has remained stubbornly steady. The annual number of such accidents rose throughout the past decade, reaching a peak of at least 26 deaths in 2010, before dropping somewhat since.

Silos teeming with corn, wheat or soybeans become death traps when grain cascades out of control, asphyxiating or crushing their victims. Since 2007, 80 farmworkers have died in silo accidents; 14 of them were teenage boys.

The deaths are horrific and virtually all preventable.

Experts say the continuing rate of silo deaths is due in part to the huge amount of corn being produced and stored in the United States to meet the global demand for food, feed and, increasingly, ethanol-based fuel.

The full article is a thoughtful, sobering piece of reporting. Check it out here, along with photos, an info-graphic, and footage from a first-responder silo rescue training session. Also worth checking out is a well-done video version of the story, which you can find here.

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