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Illinois farm worker freed after 7 hours trapped in grain bin 
 
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

GRIDLEY, Ill. — An elevator worker narrowly escaped being fully engulfed in a grain elevator entrapment in Livingston County, Illinois. The April 11 incident in a privately owned silo resulted in the man buried up to his neck in stored corn. Thanks to the diligent efforts of area first responders trained in engulfment rescue, the unidentified worker was freed after an ordeal that lasted more than seven hours. 
According to WGLT Public Radio of Bloomington-Normal, Gridley fire and ambulance crews responded to the farm in rural Gridley around 12:10 p.m. to assist a worker trapped in a grain bin. Gridley fire chief Casey Knoblach said multiple emergency departments responded to the incident, which concluded with the worker’s extraction at 7:55 p.m. Knobloch said the victim, who was in stable condition, was taken to a local hospital. Reports stated the victim suffered from compression injuries, but was expected to recover. 
In order to free the worker, the Pontiac Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) sent a vac truck to suction the grain from around the man, once the situation was stabilized. “They played a vital role,” Pontiac Fire Chief Jake Campbell said of the WWTP personnel and the vac truck. “That really made the difference in the rescue operation. We used the vac truck to suck the corn out of the to free the gentleman. That was a very make-or-break deal. It’s a very vital resource to have.”
The grain bin is located at 101168 East, 600 North Road in Pike Township in southern Livingston County, which is around four miles northeast of Gridley, the Pontiac Daily Leader reported. In addition to Pontiac Fire, other emergency personnel responding included the Gridley Fire Department, MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) Division 25 (LaSalle County), Division 28 (Champaign-Urbana) and Division 41 (Normal).
The incident underscored the inherent dangers of working in and around grain bins. The County Herald reported that according to a summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities, more than 300 cases of grain entrapment have been reported in the past decade alone. In 2021, there were 29 reported cases of grain entrapment in the U.S., resulting in 11 deaths. 
Illinois farms are no stranger to grain bin entrapments and engulfments. In 2020 Illinois reported the most incidents involving agricultural confined spaces, including grain bins. With a total of 10, Illinois also had the most grain-entrapment cases in 2020, as documented by the University of Purdue’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program.
Tragedy can strike in seconds inside a grain bin, where corn can be compared to shifting sands. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a worker standing in moving grain will be trapped within five seconds and covered by grain in less than 30 seconds. Approximately seven out of ten grain entrapments occur in privately owned grain bins, OSHA reported. 
According to OSHA, the most common situations leading to grain entrapment include: 
A worker standing on moving/flowing grain typically caused by a running auger or grain being moved out of the bin by gravity. 
A worker stands on or below a grain bridging situation. Bridging happens when damp grain clumps together, creating an empty space beneath the grain as it is unloaded. 
A worker above or below this bridge of grain is at risk should the bridge collapse. A worker stands next to a pile of grain on the side of the bin and attempts to dislodge it. It can collapse onto the worker.
OSHA provides the following tips for reducing risk in grain bins: 
Prohibit walking on or down grain to make it flow. 
Provide all employees a body harness with a lifeline, or a boatswain’s chair, and ensure it’s secured prior to the employee entering the bin. 
Provide an observer outside the bin or silo being entered by an employee. Ensure the observer is equipped to help and their only task is to continuously track the employee in the bin. 
Prohibit workers from entry into bins or silos underneath a bridging condition, or where a build-up of grain products on the sides could fall and bury them. 
Train all workers for the specific hazardous work operations they are to perform when entering and working inside of grain bins. 
Test the air within a bin or silo prior to entry for the presence of combustible and toxic gases, and to determine if there’s sufficient oxygen. 
If detected by testing, vent the silo or grain bin to ensure combustible and toxic gas levels are reduced to non-hazardous levels, and sufficient oxygen levels are maintained.
Ensure a permit is issued for each instance a worker enters a bin or silo, certifying the precautions listed above have been implemented.

4/19/2024