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Grain Bin Deaths Prompt Safety Warning for MN Farmers

In addition to Minnesota officials, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has voiced concerns over safety issues in grain bins. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to Minnesota officials, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has voiced concerns over safety issues in grain bins. (Adobe Stock)
February 19, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota officials are calling attention to a recent wave of fatal farm incidents -- and they're urging farmers to take safety precautions when working in grain bins.

Gov. Tim Walz has declared this week "Grain Bin Safety Week" in light of several fatalities in Minnesota and across the country.

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap said many farmers are desperate to salvage their crops following a rough year weather-wise in 2019. He said wet conditions resulted in low-quality grain for storage.

"As people are having issues, or they're maybe moving it earlier than expected," he said, "some of that grain that wants to spoil kind of clumps up together."

As a result, he said, a farmer might jump in to remove the clump -- and can become trapped if he or she is working alone or not using the proper safety equipment. Paap said that's why it's crucial for farmers working at grain bins to have someone with them at all times and to use the correct gear. The state said 10 people have died in farming-related accidents in Minnesota since last June.

Nationally, a database at Purdue University recorded nearly 15 fatal incidents late last year, compared with nearly 30 in all of 2018. Paap said technology has made farming safer in a lot of ways, but farmers still need to have a cautious approach.

"Whether we have too wet, or frozen fields, sometimes we get the problems," he said, "so it's just, we just need to think about being safe, each and every day."

Larger farm operations are required to follow OSHA regulations, but farms with fewer than 10 workers don't have to meet them. Meanwhile, a bill has been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature to boost funding for farm safety equipment and education. It is scheduled to get a hearing this Thursday in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The proclamation is online at mn.gov, the OSHA rule is at osha.gov, and the text of the bill, SF 2007, is online at legiscan.com.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN