Summary of U.S. injuries and fatalities involving entrapment and suffocation in grain transport vehicles

Yuan Hsin Cheng, William E. Field, Salah F. Issa, Kevin Kelley, Matthew Heber, Robert Turner

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Since 1978, the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program has managed a surveillance effort and database to collect information on documented injuries and fatalities in all forms of U.S. agricultural confined spaces. The database currently contains 1,968 cases documented in the U.S. between 1964 and 2016. Of these cases, 174 (8.8%) involved entrapment or suffocation in grain transport vehicles (GTVs), including gravityflow wagons, semi-truck trailers, and other agricultural transport vehicles that have limited access and are not considered normal work spaces or are classified as confined spaces. These GTV cases represent the overwhelming majority of documented cases involving all forms of agricultural transport vehicles, including forage and manure transport vehicles. Of the incidents documented, 64.3% resulted in fatalities and 71.8% involved children and youth age 20 years and under, when the age was determined. For the GTV cases, the typical victim was male (88.5%), and the average age of the victim was 19.9 (median 12), with over 63.5% of the cases involving children under the age of 15. In numerous incidents, more than one victim became entrapped, including one incident involving five victims. The number of documented cases decreased sharply from a peak of approximately 7 cases per year in the early 1990s to an average of 3.1 cases per year over the past two decades, with no cases documented in 1998 and 2013. However, there is a linear increase in the frequency of incidents since the first case was documented in 1964. This trend is partially due to peaks in 2011 and 2014, when 10 and 9 cases, respectively, were documented, along with more vigilant surveillance methods due to online search capabilities. The general decline, more recently, in the annual number of cases is attributed to increased awareness of the hazards to youth during transport in GTVs, increased use of warnings on GTVs, and the increased size of GTVs, which makes human access more difficult and less practical. Efforts over the past decade to bring attention to the risk of entrapment in GTVs should be recognized as a success of the educational and technological strategies initiated due to earlier high-profile incidents. However, with 6, 10, 9, and 4 cases documented in 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2016, respectively, continued efforts to address the problem are justified. Recommendations for future actions include development of a safety standard for GTVs that includes placement of safety messages on all new GTVs, use of windows above outlets, retrofitting older GTVs with appropriate warnings, and continuing to address the hazard with safety resources targeting all workers exposed to grain handling and transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages16
Specialist publicationJournal of Agricultural Safety and Health
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Agricultural transport vehicle
  • Farm safety
  • Grain suffocation
  • Grain transport vehicle
  • Wagon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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