The dangers of agriculture occur throughout the world. It is a challenging profession.
Brazil, for example, began keeping more detailed statistics on agro-industrial accidents starting in 1969. It was disclosed that nearly 18% of all industrial workers (that includes agriculture) suffered accidents. Preventive measures helped reduce that to 3.84% in 1984.
Research, in the U.S., shows that 70% of silo or bin entrapments happen on smaller family farms. While South American statistics are not available for this type of injury, it’s safe to make the comparison.
Brazil, the world’s third-largest grain producer continues to catch up on storage capacity but as of 2018, had a storage deficit of 70 million tons and has been on the fast track to building silo and bin storage.
“The governments of South and Central America are really looking for ways to make grain storage safer and more efficient,” said Luis Anton, Manager for BinMaster in Central and Latin America. “We’ve spent a lot of time demonstrating BinMaster sensors which can really bring agricultural operations to a much higher level technologically.”
BinMaster sensors and software virtually eliminate daily trips up the ladder of a silo or bin to measure levels of material, Anton said. Whether it's grain, powder, seed, or liquid, reliable inventory numbers come from a variety of sensors usually mounted on the top or sides of a silo. Those sensors send accurate inventory data to a cloud report that farmers can access from their internet-ready phones or computer. The sensors also send signals to lights or horns to alert workers and drivers that a silo is too low or too high in inventory.
HOW BIG A PROBLEM IS SILO ENTRAPMENT?
From 2018 and 2019, grain entrapments in the U.S. rose by 27% and deaths rose by 53%.
Some say that grain moisture content was damper than usual that year causing out-of-condition grain. The grain, more wet than usual, clumped and stuck to the sides of silos. It formed a crust over the top, known as bridging, making grain flow less freely and more likely for farmers to enter bins to keep grain moving.
Silos, or bins, hold anywhere from 1,000 bushels to more than 2 million. One foot of grain can create about 300 pounds of pressure. Even when a couple of feet of grain surround a person, it takes a lot of pull strength to lift someone out.
According to OSHA, a person in a bin has only two seconds to react once grain starts flowing beneath him. Entrapment can occur in four to five seconds. Full engulfment in 22 seconds.
> 2017 - 23 grain entrapments with 12 deaths
> 2018 - 30 grain entrapments with 15 deaths
> 2019 - 38 grain entrapments with 23 deaths
FALLS FROM LADDERS
Official suspect that falls from ladders is more prevalent but under-reported. In Canada, according to the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association, an average of 3 to 4 people die each year from grain bin entrapment, but falls are also on the increase. In Alberta alone, 74 lost-time injuries were experienced due to falls off of silo ladders.
HOW CAN TECHNOLOGY REDUCE SILO DEATHS AND INJURIES?
Occupational safety and health training in Brazil and other countries tend to focus on worker behavior to reduce injuries, but technology can play a big part. Getting workers off of and out of silos, and silo ladders is easily accomplished. Check the chart on the next page to explore some solutions for agriculture or any other industry storing bulk solids.