Workplace Safety Horror Stories

While the significance of creating a culture of safety may be evident to some, many organizations overlook its importance. Explore real-life accident and fatality cases to understand how to implement prevention methods and improve workplace safety.

Suffocated by Corn

Two young workers in the Midwest suffocated when instructed to break up the remaining clumps of corn in an emptying grain bin with machinery still running. The suction from the machines pulled the workers into the grain like quicksand and suffocated them.


  • Shut off equipment before employees enter the area.
  • Assess dangers and prohibit entry when unsafe.
  • Provide a body harness and supervision when employees perform potentially dangerous tasks.
  • Train employees in proper procedures and mechanical hazards.


Death by Mortar Mixer

A young worker cleaning a mortar mixer at the end of the day caught his arm in a running machine, because he removed the guard. The first worker on the scene could not shut off the mixer. The man was well into the machine when a second worker finally shut it off. Even though emergency response came in minutes, the man died.


  • Establish a program so employees shut off, de-energize and lock off equipment during cleaning and maintenance.
  • Inspect equipment regularly and train employees in the purpose and proper use of machine safeguards.
  • Train and delegate safety responsibilities to a person on each job site.


Killed & Debilitated by Compost

Two workers were trying to clear a blocked pipe in an enclosed pump shed at a mushroom composting facility while the supervisor observed from above. Clogging was a continual problem, especially with heavy rainfall or cold weather. The company raised the pipes and enclosed the shed, with access via a ladder.

One worker mentioned a strange smell when he unblocked the pipe and fell face first into the standing water. The supervisor told them to evacuate, left the shed, and called 9-1-1.

Meanwhile, the supervisor summoned 3 additional workers to enter the shed to help. When first responders arrived, they found collapsed workers inside and the supervisor outside; disoriented and short of breath. Three died at the scene and two sustained serious brain damage from hydrogen sulfide gas.


  • Building modifications must meet worker safety and access requirements, including proper ventilation
  • Ongoing building maintenance reduces the likelihood of workplace injuries and deaths
  • Supervisors need in-depth training so they do not initiate a rescue in dangerous situations involving toxic gas.


Burnt by Chemicals

While testing drug formula modifications in a chemical plant, two workers suffered serious burns when they mixed an extremely powerful oxidizing agent and a solvent together. The solution exploded tearing off doors and cladding and a fire ensued.


  • Assess risk before modifying formulations.
  • Provide safety data sheets for review before combining chemicals.
  • Train employees in the proper handling of dangerous substances.


Trapped by Laundry

One worker climbed onto a conveyor belt into a washing system of a laundry company to dislodge a blockage, which happened several times a day. When he removed the laundry, the conveyor belt reactivated and trapped his neck and hands. Fortunately, he survived but sustained serious injuries. The employee later reported the emergency stop button did not work on the conveyer belt.


  • Train employees in the proper procedures for unblocking equipment safely.
  • Ensure equipment has emergency fail-safes to prevent worker injuries.
  • Maintain equipment through regular inspections.

Employer negligence causes injuries and deaths, damages your reputation, and shuts down operations permanently. Several of the incidents mentioned above put these companies out of business. Establish workplace safety protocols preemptively to mitigate unforeseen incidents effectively.

Accidents can occur, despite your best efforts. Review your insurance coverage with your agent and develop a comprehensive risk management plan. Gilbert’s Risk Solutions helps you lower insurance costs and protects you from the unexpected, assisting in workplace safety incidents.

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