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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 19, 2011

Iowa FACE program warns of grain entrapment risk

As the fall harvest season continues in full swing, two recent fatalities in Iowa have prompted a University of Iowa College of Public Health program to issue a hazard alert warning farmers and grain workers about the risk of entrapment and death associated with grain storage and grain moving equipment.

The Iowa Fatality Assessment Control and Evaluation (Iowa FACE) program is investigating a fatal workplace injury that occurred in Dickens, Iowa, in September. Another fatal incident occurred in Ocheyedan, Iowa, in June. Both incidents involved entrapment of grain elevator employees. There were also two successful rescues from entrapment in Elkhart and Danbury, Iowa.

"The number of grain entrapment incidents nationwide has been increasing, with the highest number of incidents occurring in 2010," said John Lundell, deputy director of the Injury Prevention Research Center in the UI College of Public Health. "Farmers and workers entering storage bins during loading or unloading are at risk of entrapment from bridged grain that collapses or flowing grain that pulls them under within seconds."

Trends of increased stored grain capacity and longer storage periods raise the potential for grain to go out-of-condition, creating dangers inside storage bins.

From 2000 through 2010, 17 farm workers and grain handlers in Iowa died from grain entrapment and suffocation. Most of these fatalities were associated with workers who entered bins while unloading equipment was operating, who worked alone, or who did not communicate their whereabouts to coworkers.

"Working with partners to observe and assist with bin entries, locking out grain moving augers and conveyors, wearing safety harnesses and lifelines, and having a rescue plan in place can prevent entrapment and engulfment fatalities," Lundell said. "It's important to recognize that entrapment can also occur in grain wagons, rail cars, and storage silos."

To help minimize the risks associated with grain entrapment, the Iowa FACE program recommends that anyone working with stored or flowing grain be aware of signs that indicate potentially hazardous conditions exist in a storage structure; check for bridged grain from outside the bin using a long tool or weighted line; and treat all bins and silos as confined spaces where entry should only be conducted with a partner, following proper precautions.

The Iowa FACE program is conducted by the Injury Prevention Research Center at the UI in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health and its Office of the State Medical Examiner.

To read the full text of the alert and to learn more about occupational fatalities in Iowa or the Iowa FACE program, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications and External Relations, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Bill Barker,, 319-384-4277