Utilization and effectiveness of harnesses and lifelines in grain entrapment incidents: Preliminary analysis

Salah F. Issa, Mahmoud M. Nour, William E. Field

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


No previous studies have been found that document the level of use or validate the effectiveness of safety harnesses and lifelines in the prevention of or extrication from grain entrapments or engulfments. This article addresses that void via analysis of the data contained in the Purdue Agricultural Confined Space Incident Database. A total of 1,147 cases involving entrapments or engulfments in grain masses were mined for terms that might indicate the use of a safety harness, lifeline, fall restraint system, rope, or outside observer. Case information ranged from brief news accounts to comprehensive investigation results. The review turned up 38 incidents ( < 5%) in which these safety devices were identified as having been used by either workers or rescuers during access to a storage structure. In 26 of the 38 cases (68%) where safety devices were identified, the entrapment or engulfment resulted in a fatality. The two most common reasons cited for failure of these devices were (1) that the lifeline or rope was too long (17 incidents) and (2) that the worker had removed the harness with the attached lifeline while in the structure (6 incidents). It was also determined that these devices, if used improperly, can lead to secondary injuries of the victim. The preliminary evidence suggests that use of these devices alone does not ensure the user's safety and may even provide a false sense of security if used without proper training. It was further found that an approved body harness and safety line provided little or no protection from either entrapment or falls if used in the presence of vertically crusted grain surfaces, without proper anchors, or not in conjunction with outside observers. The presented results are important for safety professionals to consider as they endeavor to reduce the risk of grain entrapment and engulfment incidents through training, education, selection of personal protective equipment, etc., and should contribute to the development of new structural standards for grain bins. It is the intent of this article to elucidate the importance of training and proper use of these safety devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages14
Specialist publicationJournal of Agricultural Safety and Health
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Agriculture
  • Confined space
  • Engulfment
  • Fall
  • Grain storage facility
  • Lifeline
  • Rope
  • Safety rope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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