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Illinois teens suffocate in corn silo while working on farm

On behalf of Jeffrey Frederick of Frederick & Hagle posted in Workplace Accidents on Thursday, November 8, 2012.

Last week, we discussed the occupations across Illinois in which workers are most vulnerable to suffering serious injury or death from a workplace accident. Contrary to what may seem intuitive, management occupations, including agricultural occupations have the second highest rate of workplace fatalities in Illinois.

Often, major sources of agricultural workplace accidents involve malfunctioning or improperly used heavy machinery. However, another source of fatality among farmhands is silos. Every year there are a number of workers that are killed in silos used for storing corn, soybeans or wheat. The crop can loosen from the walls in an avalanche-like event that crushes or suffocates tapped workers.

According to the New York Times, in the last five years, there have been 80 farmworkers across the nation that died in this manner. Disturbingly, a significant portion of these fatal workplace accident victims are very young, under 20 years of age. In 2010 an Illinois teenager, just 14 years old, got swallowed up in and suffocated in an avalanche of corn on a farm in Mount Carroll. Another 19-year-old that rushed to his assistance was also killed.

There are guidelines issued by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulating grain storage. When the Illinois teens died, all of those regulations were disregarded. An OSHA director said, “There is absolutely no excuse for any worker to be killed in this type of accident.” OSHA negotiated fines for the employer totaling $268,000.

When workers are killed on the job there are methods available through which a family can recoup financially, and in some instances families can even hold negligent third parties financially liable.

Source: The New York Times, “Silos Loom as Death Traps on American Farms,” John M. Broder, Oct. 28, 2012

  • Our firm has experience helping families in similar circumstances. For more information, please visit our Illinois accidents at work page.

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