Contributing Causes of Injury or Death in Grain Entrapment, Engulfment, and Extrication

Salah Fuad Issa, William E. Field, Charles V. Schwab, Fadi S. Issa, Eric A. Nauman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: Grain entrapments and engulfments are one of most common hazards associated with grain storage facilities, with over 1,140 such entrapments/engulfments documented since the 1970s. The objective of the study was to determine the factors that contribute to injury or death in grain entrapment, engulfment, and extrication cases. Methods: A literature review, including data contained in the Purdue Agricultural Confined Spaces Incident Database (PACSID), was conducted to determine the conditions that the body experiences during an entrapment or engulfment in grains and during extrication efforts. Results: Based on the review, the conditions a human body faces during an entrapment, engulfment, or extraction can be split into two broad categories—environmental and physiological/psychological. The environmental factors depend on the grain’s properties, depth of entrapment or engulfment, position of the victim’s body, and characteristics of the storage unit, which include the grain’s lateral pressure, vertical pressure, and weight, as well as friction, oxygen availability and diffusion rate, and grain temperature. The physiological and psychological factors are related to the individual’s age and physical and psychological conditions, and manifest themselves in terms of oxygen consumption, asphyxiation (including aspiration, lack of oxygen, compression or splinting of the thorax), blood flow, and heart rate. Conclusion: Of all the above factors, a review of fatality data contained in the PACSID indicate that aspiration, asphyxiation, grain weight, and lateral pressure are most likely the primary cause of death for most entrapment victims. Research gaps found by this study include an understanding of the impact of lateral pressure on lung expansion and oxygen availability and consumption rate, and the need for more case studies to accurately determine cause of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Agromedicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Asphyxiation
  • aspiration
  • entrapment depth
  • lateral grain pressure
  • physiological conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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