Smoke rises from the damaged headhouse area of the Bartlett Grain elevator in Atchison, Kan., on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. Crews suspended their search Sunday for three people missing after a thunderous explosion at the grain elevator killed three workers and hospitalized two others with severe burns. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Keith Myers)
Experts say the nation's more than 10,000 grain elevators are safer than ever, despite a weekend explosion that killed six people in Kansas.
Elevators are where farmers take grain to be stored before it's marketed and sold. Fine, highly combustible dust flows through the buildings as the grain is moved, and a spark from equipment or an overheated bearing can ignite it.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the nation saw an average of 25 grain elevator explosions a year in the late 1970s. That dropped to fewer than nine explosions per year between 2001 and 2005.
Experts say a key to reducing explosions has been simple rules, such as banning welding when grain is being moved, and keeping machines well-oiled to make sure they don't overheat.