A 13-year-old boy was cleaning inside a grain bin while a sweep auger was in operation. The unguarded auger swept slowly around the grain bin floor, pivoting about a central axis. As the boy stepped over the moving equipment, the hem of his pants caught in the auger, and his leg was traumatically amputated below the knee as it became entangled.
A 70-year-old farm laborer was cleaning a grain auger that had been shut off, but the machine's electric power supply had not been disconnected. (The controls for switching the auger on and off were located in a different building.) The auger was inadvertently activated by a co-worker, and the worker’s left hand was amputated above the wrist.
A 21-year-old farm laborer was using an auger to unload a grain bin. While attempting to step over the machine, he stepped on a metal shield that covered the bottom of the auger. The shield broke, and he fell into the auger, sustaining a below-the-knee amputation.
A 46-year-old farmer died after becoming entangled in an unshielded auger system that was being used to move feed down the length of a feed bunk in a cattle feed lot. While the system was in operation, the farmer entered the feed bunk, and his leg became entangled when he either slipped or attempted to step over the auger. The electric motor driving the system stopped after the fuse blew. Although he freed himself from the auger and climbed out of the feed bunk, he died a short distance from the feed lot as a result of massive hemorrhage.
A farmer in Australia fell into a grain auger at his family farm. While both of his legs were trapped by the blades of the machine, the father of five called his wife and told her that he was stuck. He called to tell her that he loved her, and thanked her for being the mother of his children. The farmer was trapped in the machine for four and a half hours with the blades about to rip through his stomach before he was able to be removed. He survived with a below-the-knee amputation on one leg, crushed bones on the other leg, crushed pelvis, and seven fractured vertebrae.
A 63-year-old farmer was moving corn from a truck to a bin when his leg became entangled into the auger. He was working alone that morning and had forgotten his phone. Knowing that the auger would not stop, he used his pocket knife to amputate his leg before the auger pulled him in farther. After he amputated his leg, the farmer had to crawl 150 feet to his house to call 911.
On a per-hour basis, grain augers are one of the most dangerous machines on the farm. The grain auger is made up of a corkscrew blade inside a metal tube with an intake and discharge port. The material is transported through the metal tube by the spinning corkscrew blade. Augers vary in size, four to fifteen inches in diameter, and in length, several feet to hundreds of feet. Augers can also be powered with engines and motors, or they can be attached to equipment using a power-take-off shaft (PTO).
Most of the accidents related to augers are due to operator error and can easily be prevented. Contact with the exposed blade, entanglement in the PTO or other drives, and electrocution from contact with overhead power lines are all unfortunate accidents that happen every year. Making simple changes to the guards surrounding the exposed blade can save a hand. Ensuring all employees are dressed appropriately can save a leg. Never letting someone work with a grain auger alone can save a life. Below are eleven recommendations from the CDC in regard to grain auger safety.
- Barriers (e.g., fences) should be used to prevent persons not involved in the operation of an auger from entering the area adjacent to the auger.
- Children under 18 years old should not operate augers and should not enter the area near an auger.
- Before starting an auger, the operator should ensure that all protective shields, as supplied by the manufacturer, are in place and in good condition. The federal OSHA standard for safety of farm equipment requires placement of guards on augers consistent with their designed use.
- Before service or repair, power should be shut off and the auger power source "locked-out" and "tagged." (Locking out prevents power from being restored while maintenance is in progress, and tagging the switch indicates that power is disabled and the reason.)
- To prevent entanglement, persons wearing loose clothing or jewelry or persons with long, untied hair should not operate augers.
- Workers should not step or jump on or over an auger while it is in operation.
- Grain augers always should be lowered to a horizontal position before being moved from one location to another. Workers always should observe the presence and location of power lines before raising an auger into position.
- Whenever possible, operators should ensure good footing while working around augers. Portable augers should be placed on dry, level ground or a gravel pad. Spilled grain should be removed between loads, after the equipment has been turned off.
- Operators should never use their hands or feet to redirect the flow of grain or other materials into the auger.
- All farm workers and auger operators should be educated about safe operating procedures and hazards associated with augers.
- Augers should be clearly labeled as posing a hazard for entanglement and subsequent serious injury.
“Agricultural Auger-Related Injuries and Fatalities -- Minnesota, 1992-1994.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Sept. 1995, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00038801.htm.