Children and Grain Handling: A Dangerous Combination

02:08PM Nov 28, 2014
iStock Two Kids in Field
( iStock )

Working in and around grain is extremely hazardous even for trained adults. Under no circumstances should young children be in the grain-handling work site.

And still, this harvest season has brought tragic fatalities and close calls such as:

  • A 5-year-old North Carolina boy suffocates in a grain cart that is being loaded.
  • An 8-year-old South Dakota boy narrowly survives engulfment in a grain wagon when his shoe jams in the bottom of the wagon gate, allowing his nose and mouth to stay above the wheat.
  • A 12-year-old Iowa girl is pulled under flowing corn in a gravity-box wagon that is being unloaded by her father. Emergency personnel freed her.
  • A 7-year-old Iowa boy dies after being struck by a grain truck.

All of these incidents could have been prevented if recommendations from the Grain Handling Safety Coalition (GHSC) had been followed. Guidelines on how to prevent these types of incidents are available in the GHSC Position Statement for Youth Working with Grain. According to the statement:

  • Youth under 18 years old should not be inside any storage structure, wagon or other type of equipment when grain is being loaded, unloaded or transferred.
  • Youth should not be in grain bins, silos or in/around flat storage structures unless they are empty, proper lock out/tag out and other safety procedures are followed, and the youth is at least 16 years old.

The guidelines also address appropriate training, fall protection (grain bins and silos usually have external ladders), and personal protective equipment. The position statement includes information on adult and employer responsibilities, and links back to other valuable resources related to working youth.

Marsha Salzwedel, M.S., youth safety specialist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, led development of the Grain Handling Safety Coalition position statement.

A popular video, “Following Proper Grain Bin Entry Procedures Saves Lives,” is available on YouTube at The video was produced by Salzwedel and the National Children’s Center.