Grain bin safety a priority for Collwest
Collwest Grain is making an effort to raise awareness about farm safety, specifically with regards to grain storage and farm machinery safety.
Owner John Taylor held a full-day seminar geared to farmers, grain industry personnel and first responders July 6, when, with Dekalb, they donated a cofferdam to the Clearview Fire Department.
A cofferdam is not a common piece of rescue equipment but it can be an important one for fire departments that serve an agricultural community, said Taylor.
He said he attended a similar meeting a couple of years ago.
“I thought it was well done and I decided I wanted to put one on in this area. There are more and more grain bins going up, more grain storage in the area and for residents to be aware of the risks and hazards involved with storing grain and how to properly store and keep grain in condition,” said Taylor.
“There are a lot of accidents and deaths on farms every year and I just want to make sure to bring safety to their attention.”
A cofferdam, is a fairly simple piece of equipment that is made out of metal panels, which are pieced together around someone who is trapped in a grain bin.
If a person becomes trapped in grain it is used to create a dam around them so they don’t get further engulfed. The grain is extracted from around them to get them out.
“Someone could become trapped if they go into a bin while an auger is running, they can get sucked into the grain or if someone is in the bin working and if the grain is not in good condition it’ll stand up and if it lets go, the person could become entrapped and suffocate,” said Taylor. “They are not very common and it’s something you hope you never use.”
For the seminar, several experts were booked to speak, including Emergency Services Rescue Training (ESRT) directors Carol Jones and Wayne Bauer. ESRT is a not-for-profit agency that develops and delivers agricultural safety and health programs and agricultural emergency response training in the United States and Canada.
They told The Echo, grain in a storage bin can be like quicksand.
“When someone is buried in grain they can’t get themselves out. The forces of the grain on the body are too much,” said Jones. “Without something to hold on to you can’t get yourself out even if you are buried up to your knees. If you are buried up to your waist it’s about 800 pounds of force, if you are up to over your waist it’s about 1,600 pounds of force.”
The cofferdam is used to surround the person so rescuers can scoop or vacuum the grain out from around them to relieve the force and get the person out.
Proper storage of grain helps prevent accidents. When grain has gone out of condition – meaning it has moulded or gone clumpy – it won’t go through the auger in the bottom of the bin properly.
“So somebody goes in to figure out what the problem is and all of a sudden it starts to flow, or the grain is stuck to the wall and it lets loose and covers them like an avalanche,” said Jones, “Or there is a crust of grain and you’ve unloaded everything from under it into the auger and the guy goes in to see why more isn’t coming out. He steps in thinking it’s solid grain and it’s not and he breaks through and it comes down on top of him. That’s almost always a fatality.”
There is an average of 104 people who die in farm accidents every year in Canada
“Incident rates for fatalities on farms are six to seven times higher than general industry so we see a lot of deaths on farms,” said Bauer.
The focus of the seminar was on grain entrapment but farm machinery accidents are the primary cause of farm deaths, with manure pits, large animals and a number of other hazards being factors.
“A lot of emergency responders don’t know how to conduct themselves when they are called to respond to an incident on a farm…” said Bauer. “Unless they have a real strong ag background they don’t have the faintest idea how to conduct themselves when dealing with those types of things.”
The ESRT is advocating for safer bins and better practices, starting with staying out of the bin when possible, don’t go in alone and have a plan for when something goes wrong.