Grain silos are large storage containers for agricultural products like wheat, corn, and rice. In the United States, silos are usually steel fabricated and can be as tall as 200 feet (61 meters). Some silos are equipped with unique ventilation systems to keep the grain inside from getting too hot.
Grain dust is highly combustible, and grain silo explosions are not uncommon. The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports several dust fires every year.
Were you hurt in a grain explosion or fire? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC are legal advocates for those injured through the negligence of others.
Call our farm accident lawyers today at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss receiving compensation.
What Causes a Grain Silo Explosion?
In most cases, grain silo explosions occur when the grain is being unloaded from a silo, and a spark ignites the dust in the air. The resulting explosions can be devastating, causing serious injuries and even death.
In some cases, grain silos may explode due to a build-up of methane gas. Methane is a byproduct of decomposing organic matter, and it can accumulate inside a silo if the conditions are right.
If there’s enough methane present, it can be ignited by a spark from the grain unloading process. It can cause a powerful explosion that can destroy the silo and possibly injure or kill anyone nearby.
Grain Silo Illinois Explosions
On May 12, 2022, a grain silo imploded in Chicago, setting the ethanol plant of BioUrja ethanol producers on fire. Besides the BioUrja Group’s ethanol plant catching fire, the accident also resulted in two employees ending up in the hospital.
The incident, which took place in central Illinois, led to the company closing the facility for the time being. On Wednesday evening, the central Illinois fire department responded to a grain bin explosion report.
Cause of Explosion Not Known
According to the company president Scott Carey, the explosion’s cause is not known, although it was originally hinted to be a grain bin explosion. BioUrja is an agricultural commodity trading company in Houston.
Carey further said that the company is assessing what kind of chain reaction may be initiated on the plant. At the moment, it seems like the damage is only to the silos and the storage area. He said that the explosion and fire did not reach the plant’s distillation section or other equipment.
Plant Remains Closed
Afterward, a company executive said that the farm workers were discharged from the hospital. However, the plant will be closed until the relevant departments, such as the Illinois Department of Labor, determine the cause of the fire and the explosion.
Do note that the ethanol produced by the plant was 135 million gallons per year.
Keeping the plant closed for such a long time would mean a heavy loss for the company. It could also lead to a loss of income for the plant workers. This incident is proof that such silos should be properly maintained and operated to prevent a multitude of problems.
Demand for More Grain-Based Fuel Rising
The US has an 11-cent-per-gallon margin to refine ethanol in the country’s corn belt. The production hit a high when the fuel demand rebounded after things started opening up last year due to the lowered impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ethanol producers in the US have rebuilt inventories leading to the stockpiles rising to 26.5 million barrels, which is the highest figure since mid-2020, as shown by the Energy Information Administration data.
The BioUrja supply group based in Houston bought the ethanol plant last year from Archer Daniels Midland Co, which is one of the world’s largest producers of ethanol, for an undisclosed sum. The sale was done in Archer Daniels Midland Co’s attempt to cut costs.
Injuries in Grain Bin Accidents
Are you a victim of a grain bin accident? You might be entitled to financial compensation for your losses. Besides grain bins, a grain elevator and flying debris can also cause accidents. Grain elevator explosions can also lead to fatal injuries.
The injuries in a grain bin accident depend on how the incident happened. If a bin is full and someone is trying to enter it, the person could be buried alive by the grain.
Being buried could cause asphyxiation or crushing injuries. If a bin is not full, a person could still be injured if they are caught in the grain and unable to move.
It’s also important to note that grain dust is highly combustible, and if there’s a spark, the entire bin could explode.
There have been reports of people dying from dust fires and being buried alive in grain bins. Here are some ways this could have a broader effect:
- Metal-On-Metal Contact: If there is any metal-on-metal contact in the bin, it could create sparks that could ignite the dust. Metal-on-metal contact is the reason for many fires and other incidents on farms.
- Leaking Vents: If there are leaking vents in the bin, dust could accumulate and become combustible.
- Faulty Wiring: In many cases, faulty wiring is responsible for dust explosions.
- Improper Housekeeping: If the bin is not clean and there is dust accumulation, it could increase the chances of a dust explosion.
Besides this, hazards can also be caused by a defective section of the silo’s structure or falling equipment. It could lead to amputations and spinal cord injuries. Since a wide range of injuries can occur due to farm equipment, a broader effort is needed by the supervisors and companies to ensure the safety of workers on a plant.
Moreover, the whole plant can catch on fire if the damage appears too late or is not reported on time due to exchange delays. Due to this, it may have to remain closed forever or for an indefinite period, leading to financial loss.
If the damage spreads to the storage sides of the farm, it can create an even bigger problem as it would destroy the grain stored for trading purposes.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to Resolve Your Compensation Case
Were you or a loved one in a grain silo fire or exploding grain debris/dust? Contact a workplace accident lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form now.
If you are injured to a point where it impacted your employment and source of income, you can also receive compensation for that. Find out what you can do to be compensated.
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