Across the rural Midwest, landscapes are dotted with tall, cylindrical storage containers for grain. Some belong to commercial grain elevators, but increasingly farmers want to market their grain throughout the year so they install their own storage bins right on the farm. Maintaining the quality of that grain requires vigilance—and can present safety concerns. In particular, the risk of entrapment when a person enters a bin to check on the grain.
In 2011, an explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas, killed six people—employees and inspectors there—and rocked a community. Federal prosecutors are now considering charges in the case, but with 2010 the worst year on record, why does this keep happening?
On today's Central Standard, we explore the world of safety and regulation in the grain industry. Investigative reports this week from NPR News' Howard Berkes, Harvest Public Media's Jeremy Bernfeld, and the Kansas City Star's Mike McGraw, have revealed that hundreds have died in explosions and drownings in grain elevators—even as business is thriving, including here in Kansas—which is second in the nation in grain deaths.