Staying Safe Around Grain: Let’s Send the Right Message to Youth

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

In 2014 alone, more than 23.8 million youth visited farms across the United States. During these visits while fostering a child’s passion for agriculture and curiosity for farm practices, large equipment and animals, it is vital to keep safety at the forefront. Farms are busy workplaces. Therefore, children should be educated that the farm is not a play area and they should treat the farm with the same respect and care as any other workplace.

As with many practices on the farm, producing grain can be dangerous. According to Purdue University, there were 61 documented grain bin entrapments and incidents in other confined spaces on U.S. farms in 2018. Historically, nearly one in five of all agricultural incidents in confined spaces has involved children and young adults, under the age of 21, according to the report. To shed light on this important topic, Grain Bin Safety Week is commemorated each year during the third full week of February.

19-1935_GrainSafety_11919Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, recognized as the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America, wholeheartedly supports this endeavor and is taking it a step further to educate our future generation of farmers – our children. Educating youth of the potential dangers, characteristics and scenarios associated with grain bin management is an important step to reducing incidents and losses. In 2019, nearly 35,000 youth participants and adult volunteers were reached with grain safety lessons offered at one of our Progressive Agriculture Safety Days.

It’s downright scary the similarities grain has to quicksand. In a matter of seconds, one can become entrapped in grain and in less than a minute become fully submerged. Curiosity, size, strength and lack of experience are a major cause of injuries and fatalities for young children. Through hands-on activities and demonstrations, we strongly emphasize the following to youth participants at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days:

  1. Always stay out of flowing grain.
  2. Never walk or play in or around stored grain.
  3. Never enter a grain bin, wagon, or truck.
  4. Stay away from a grain bin while the unloading auger or vacuum/suction tube is operating.
  5. What to do in case of an emergency involving grain, including:
  • Turn off any equipment that is causing the grain to flow or move. This will stop the person from being pulled further underneath the grain.
  • Always assume the victim is alive and take the necessary measures to help the situation. This may include turning on aeriation fans and assuring dryer heat is turned off.
  • Call for help immediately. Never attempt to pull someone out of grain on your own.

Corn Box Pic 2Agritourism continues to become extremely popular in the U.S. While Agritourism gives producers the opportunity to generate additional income and an avenue for direct marketing to consumers, it also provides educational learning opportunities for all ages. The opportunities are endless with Christmas tree and holiday festivals in the winter months, u-picks and farmer’s markets in the spring and summer, and pumpkin patches in the fall. While educating youth, we need to always ensure we are sending the correct messages. Avoid confusing children by sending mixed messages when replacing sand boxes with corn at places like pumpkin patches, local parks and farm shows. A young child will have trouble understanding and identifying the difference between grain in a corn box and grain in a gravity flow wagon. In addition to sending the wrong message, other hazards around include chocking, allergies, crowding, and as a food source can attract animals and pests, which can cause illness due to germs from feces. The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety have several resources on Integrating Safety into Agritourism, which can be located at

Learn more about 2020 Grain Bin Safety Week, taking place February 16-22, by visiting For more information or to locate a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day near you, visit or call 888-257-3529. We welcome individual support to help send another child to a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in their local community with a modest donation of only $13. Donate by texting the word “SAFETYDAY” to 44321.

Photo 1: At a 2019 Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® held in Brookings, South Dakota, participants learn important lessons on how to stay safe around grain through a variety of hands-on activities.

Photo 2: Although it may be fun and an easier to manage, replacing sand boxes with corn can send the wrong messages to our youth and mask the significant dangers in playing in grain. Role modeling safe behavior is key and responsibility of all of us.