Crops News

Grain bin safety courses demonstrate dangers of the ‘quicksand’


Maybe it was to inspect some hot pockets, to get rid of some lingering pests, or to break up some caking or clumping; no matter what the reason is for entering a grain bin, safety and precautionary measures are vital.

In the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62 percent, according to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana.

According to the National Ag Safety Database, it only takes three to four seconds for a person to become entrapped in flowing grain. An average adult can become completely submerged in less than 20 seconds.

This was recently demonstrated in Seymour, Indiana, where 30 first responders, farmers and agribusiness employees participated in the Hazards of Flowing Grain and Confined Space Entry/Rescue training at the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department in Cortland. The eight-hour course was led by Bill Harp and his son, Michael Harp, with the Safety and Technical Rescue Association of Livonia, Michigan.

Hamilton Township volunteer firefighter Travis Quillen was one of the first to participate in a reenactment — getting buried up to his chest in corn kernels inside a grain bin.

“I grew up around a farm, so I just played in the corn when I was little. I’ve never been up to my chest,” Quillen told the Seymour Tribune.

“It was just a strange feeling sinking down — a lot of pressure,” he said. “It puts you — if you’re on a rescue — in their shoes and what they are feeling. It gives you respect for if you’re working around [grain bins], don’t get in that situation.”

Seymour is not the first place to hold such a course. From Mandan, North Dakota, and Red Oak, Iowa, to Adams, New York, and  Sabetha, Kansas, firefighters, first responders, and farmers are signing up for the training. In August, the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health brought the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety Grain Bin Rescue Simulator from Peosta, Iowa, to New York state for hands-on training at the annual Empire Farm Days.

In conjunction with Grain Bin Safety Week in February, Nationwide sponsors a “Nominate Your Fire Department” contest to promote awareness of agricultural safety. Now in its third year, the 2016 contest generated 641 nominations and selected 19 fire departments from 14 states to receive rescue tubes and training.

Over the past three years, Nationwide has awarded rescue tubes and training programs to 32 fire departments, and they have seen the effectiveness of the program firsthand. In 2015, the Westphalia, Kansas Fire Department, one of the winners from the contest’s first year, used their tube and training in a successful grain bin rescue.

For those around grain bins daily, the National Ag Safety Database offers these safety precautions:

  • Stay out of grain bins, wagons and grain trucks when unloading equipment is running.
  • If it is necessary to enter the bin, remember to shut off the unloader.
  • Children should not be allowed to play in or around grain bins, wagons, or truck beds.
  • Ladders and ropes should be installed inside grain bins to provide a grabhold or for an emergency exit. Attach ropes to the ladders and from the top center of the bin.

If you must enter the bin:

  • Wear a harness attached to a rope.
  • Stay near the outer wall of the bin and keep walking if the grain should start to flow.
  • Have one to two people outside the bin who can help if you become entrapped. These people should be trained in rescue procedures and should know and follow safety procedures for entering the confined space.
  • Anyone working in a grain bin, especially for the purpose of cleaning the bin, should wear an appropriate dust filter or filter respirator.
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