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North Carolina farm workers face unexpected risk in corn silos

Over the last several years, domestic and global demand for corn has grown immensely. Since corn is used to make everything from fuel to soda, it's no surprise that farmers throughout North Carolina and the rest of the country have made the decision to plant corn crops.

Though farmers may see corn as a sound investment, many may not see the risk of workplace accident associated with storing the grain. In many cases, dried corn is kept in large silos until it is shipped to processors. When farm workers go into silos to remove corn stuck to the sides of the large agricultural structures, the grain can come crashing down on workers and bury them. At this point, there is a very high chance that workers will suffocate.

One family is still healing from an accident involving an 18-year-old young man who worked a near-minimum wage job on a local farm. One day, the boy received the task of freeing corn from the side of the silo to prepare for newly harvested grain. Unfortunately, the young man's future was cut short when the corn collapsed on him and he died in this tragic workplace accident.

In 2010 alone, 26 workers died in silo-related accidents -- many of whom were teenagers. In response to this disturbing trend, some federal officials suggest a policy change that would prevent workers under the age of 18 from working in silos or other agricultural storage bins.

In at least one of these accidents, employers have been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for numerous on-the-job safety violations. Had worksite managers taken the right precautions and equipped their workers with the skills to safely work in silos, then families may not be mourning the loss of their loved ones who passed away much too soon.

Depending on the nature and size of the farming operation, families of workers who perish in workplace accidents may have access to workers' compensation death benefits. Though benefit claims cannot undo the tragedy, they can help distressed families through the difficult times following an accident. In this period of grief and confusion loved ones may wish to explore all of their legal options, which may not be limited to workers' compensation.

Source: New York Times, "Silos Loom as Death Traps on American Farms," John M. Broder, Oct. 28, 2012

  • Our firm has the experience to help injured North Carolina workers and their families work through the effects of a workplace accident. To find out more, please see our Greensboro workplace injuries page.

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