Grain bin entrapments and other confined space accidents on the nation’s farms fell to their lowest level in a decade last year, a Purdue University study has found.
The U.S. had 47 accidents in grain bins or other confined spaces in 2015. That’s 34 percent less than 2014’s 71 such accidents and the fewest since 46 were recorded in 2006, the study found.
Last year’s accidents were reported in 13 states, mostly in the Midwest’s Corn Belt region.
The study, an annual report prepared by Purdue, found that 25 people died last year in either grain bin entrapments or other confined space accidents. That’s down from 31 deaths in 2014.
Fourteen of last year’s deaths were caused by grain entrapments, which typically occur when a farm worker enters a grain bin or silo to dislodge clumps of grain and becomes engulfed by shifting grain, resulting in suffocation.
Last year’s other fatalities included workers entangled in machinery, falling or struck by heavy objects.
Bill Field, a Purdue professor of agricultural safety and health, said many nonfatal entrapments go unreported each year because there’s no mandatory national reporting system. He said some victims and their employers are reluctant to report accidents because doing so can create work delays or higher insurance costs.
Field said getting an accurate accident count is crucial to efforts to improve farm safety.
“We need to know where the needs are so we can focus our prevention and rescue training efforts in those areas,” he said.
Iowa led the nation with seven accidents last year. Others were reported in Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin and South Dakota.