South Dakota to host national grain bin safety push

A national campaign to encourage safe grain handling practices will kick off this year in Mitchell, South Dakota – home of the “iconic Corn Palace,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week is an annual event to encourage practices that reduce grain handling injuries and deaths. Agriculture has one of the highest rates of worker injuries, and grain engulfment accidents are a leading cause of fatalities.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s father was killed in a grain bin accident.

This year’s event kicks off from March 25-29 and is a joint effort among OSHA, the Grain Handling Safety Council, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society and the National Grain and Feed Association.

The first event took place in 2017, and between 2021 and 2022, fatal grain bin engulfments fell by 17 percent. But the overall number of engulfments was up over that period, according to Purdue University, and 36 percent of all engulfments resulted in a fatality because required safeguards were not followed.

“Despite a reduction in grain bin fatalities, far too many people are still being harmed or losing their lives as they work to produce our nation’s food supply,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver. “The agricultural industry must never overlook the importance of following all safety procedures to protect workers from the dangers lurking in grain bins, such as engulfments and heat illness, which can quickly lead to tragedy.”

Besides engulfment, in which a worker is buried in grain and smothered to death, grain handling has five other major hazards: falls, auger entanglement, struck-by events, combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.

The national safety campaign will launch in conjunction with the South Dakota Grain Bin Engulfment Prevention Summit, featuring industry leaders and stakeholders who will lead safety demonstrations and discussions. The event is sponsored by Agtegra Cooperative, Oklahoma State University, OSHA Region 8, Prairie Ag Partners and the South Dakota University Extension OSHA Consultation.

During the week, online safety presentations will be available in English and Spanish.

“Hosted at 10 a.m. CDT, sessions will cover topics including building a safety culture, strains, sprains and musculoskeletal injuries, ladder safety and heat and extreme temperatures.”