U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation naming February 16-22 as Grain Bin Safety Week. Both South Dakota and 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.
Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap says many farmers are desperate to salvage their crops following a rough year weather-wise in 2019. He says wet conditions resulted in low-quality grain for storage.
As a result, he says, a farmer might jump in to remove the clump – and can become trapped if they're working alone or not using the proper safety equipment. Paap says 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.
Nationally, a database at Purdue University recorded nearly 15 fatal incidents late last year, compared to nearly 30 in all of 2018. Paap says technology has made farming safer in a lot of ways, but farmers still need to have a cautious approach.
Larger farm operations are required to follow OSHA regulations, but farms with fewer than 10 workers don't have to meet them. Leo Reiffenberger of Labolt Farmers Grain says farmers need to stay out of the grain bins, even if they think they are empty.
South Dakota’s most recent farming fatality occurred on Monday when 27 year-old Christopher Bauman became trapped and was killed inside a grain by Elkton.