West Lafayette, IN — At least 64 incidents involving confined spaces in the agriculture industry were documented in 2020, and half were fatal, according to an annual report recently released by Purdue University.
The 32 deaths are more than confined space fatalities reported in the mining industry (29) last year. Of the agricultural deaths, 20 involved grain entrapment. Falls, entanglement in grain-handling equipment and asphyxiation/poisoning each contributed to three deaths, while the causes of the three remaining cases were classified as “other.”
The university’s agricultural and biological engineering department has investigated and documented incidents involving grain storage and handling facilities since the 1970s. According to its records, around 60% of incidents involving agricultural confined spaces have resulted in a fatality.
The report, citing a 2013 study, notes that because many agricultural facilities aren’t covered by OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements, around 30% of cases go unreported or undocumented.
“The number of documented fatal cases continues to be higher than the number of nonfatal cases for all confined space incidents, further suggesting an underreporting of nonfatal incidents,” the report states.
Illinois, with 17, led all states with the most documented cases of agricultural confined space incidents – nonfatal and fatal. Next were Minnesota and North Dakota, each with seven.