This article summarizes a report released at the end of March by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program on reported agricultural confined space-related injury and fatality cases documented during 2021. The program has documented and entered into Purdue’s Agricultural Confined Space Incident Database more than 2,460 fatal and non-fatal agricultural confined space cases since 1977.
Geographic Distribution of Grain Entrapment Cases for 2021 and Previous Years (1962-2021)
No fewer than 56 fatal and non-fatal cases involving agricultural confined spaces were documented in 2021, representing a 12.5% decrease over 2020.
There were no fewer than 29 grain-related entrapments in 2021, representing a 17.1% decrease over 2020, with the balance involving livestock waste handling facilities, entanglements, falls, and grain dust explosions and fires.
The report breaks out grain entrapment cases from a larger number of confined-space related cases, which include falls into or from grain storage structures, equipment entanglements (including augers), asphyxiations, drownings, and victims being stuck or pinned by heavy objects.
Number of deaths. The 29 fatal and non-fatal grain entrapment cases documented in 2021 represented a 17.1% decrease from the 35 recorded in 2020. The 29 cases documented in 2021 was lower than the five-year average (31 cases per year). The five-year running average continues to drop from its peak of 40.4 in 2011. The number of non-fatal grain entrapment cases (18) was the fifth largest ever recorded after 2010 (27), 2011 (21), 2013 (21), and 2014 (20). Of the reported entrapment cases reported in 2021, 38% (11) resulted in a fatality.
State review. In 2021, the state with the most documented grain entrapments, fatal and non-fatal, was Illinois with five cases. This was followed by Iowa (4) and Minnesota (3). Illinois represented 17% of all documented cases. Overall, grain entrapments were documented in 15 states in 2021. The majority of grain entrapment cases occurred in the Midwest or Corn Belt (80%). Historically, 74% of previously documented cases have occurred in the Corn Belt region.
Demographic breakdown. All but two of the documented grain entrapment cases in 2021 involved males. There was one grain entrapment case – an auger entanglement – involving someone under the age of 21, reflecting a significant decline from the six cases in 2020 involving younger workers. The oldest victim of grain entrapment was 79. The average age was 49.8 years old, and the median age was 47. The specific age of the victim could not be documented in 37 cases.