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Minnesota harvest: Grain bin accidents can kill in less than 60 seconds

Most farmers know that their chosen profession can be dangerous - if not downright deadly - at times. Despite the growing conditions earlier this year in Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting a plentiful corn harvest. In just a few weeks, farmers will know if the prediction came true.

Unfortunately, work-related injuries too often come hand-in-hand with harvesting. Entanglements in machinery and heavy equipment are on the top ten list of most common workplace injuries. Catching clothing, hair, hands, fingers or shoes in farm equipment, can cause permanent disabilities or deaths. Falling from heights, falling objects and vehicle accidents are also common in the agricultural industry.

When a person is injured while performing work-related duties, payments in the form of workers' compensation or long-term disability benefits may be available. Such benefits may include compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Long-term medical care
  • Wage losses
  • Disfigurement or scars
  • Temporary or permanent disabilities

However, the best way to avoid work-related injuries is to avoid the situations where disabling accidents commonly occur.

Common dangers of grain bins

Grain handling accidents are far too common and can be deadly. Workers in grain bins can get stuck by flowing grain within five seconds and become completely submerged within 60 seconds. Every year, one or more deaths occur in Minnesota due to suffocation from working with grain. Knowing the dangers can be helpful for avoiding accidents common in bins.

  • During auger operation: Standing on flowing or moving grain while the auger is working can be deadly. As the grain moves toward the outlet at the base of the bin, it acts like quicksand, rapidly pulling a person working on the surface down until his or her face is below the surface of the grain, causing suffocation.
  • Bridged grain: Bridging occurs when moisture causes the grain to clump together, creating an empty space beneath a "bridge." If a worker unknowingly steps onto a grain bridge or is working under one, the bridge can suddenly collapse, trapping the worker under the grain.
  • Grain walls: Often, not all of the grain exits the bin through the auger, leaving walls of grain along the inside of the bin. If workers are unable to loosen the grain walls by bumping them from the outside, they must go inside and loosen the grain manually. Unfortunately, one shovelful of grain can cause an unexpected cave-in, burying the worker.
  • Unsafe breathing air: At times, the air itself inside the bins may be hazardous to those who enter. High levels of toxins or a lack of sufficient oxygen may cause a worker to be overcome so quickly he or she is unable to exit the bin in time.

A lawyer can help

If you suffer an injury that affects your ability to work, consult an experienced workers' compensation and long-term disability lawyer. An attorney may be able to help you obtain the benefits to which you are entitled.