Farmers in Ohio know the dangers of working in a grain bin. When grain is flowing onto a conveyor, it can become stuck in the bin. Many times, an individual will have to enter the bin to free up the grains that are clogging the flow. When this happens, an individual can quickly become buried, and it is possible for victims to then suffocate. One research group believes that every grain engulfment accident can be prevented with proper procedure.
Though a wrongful death suit cannot be filed by the family of an employee who has passed away because of such an accident, this may change. Lawyers involved in a civil suit in Nebraska on behalf of a man who suffocated in a grain bin believe that the worker's death was an assault and battery rather than an unexpected accident, eliminating the protection of workers' compensation.
In fact, grain bin deaths hit an all-time high last year of 26, and there were 51 total entrapments, another all-time high. A father who lost his son in a grain bin suffocation accident 18 years ago now advocates for holding employers more responsible by sending them to jail if found liable. His son was sent into a clogged grain bin without a safety harness. In August 2010, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said there is a pattern of noncompliance when it comes to sending workers into clogged grain bins.
The case in Nebraska has bounced around the courts, which leaves some hopeful that employers who disregard safety regulations will be held to more account.
Source: Kansas City Star, "Number of suffocation deaths in grain bins is increasing," Mike McGraw, Nov. 25, 2011