It is Grain Bin Safety Week (February 22-28), an annual week long awareness event organized by Nationwide Insurance.
Posted on 2/21/15
By Melissa Anderson
The hope of this event is to educate agricultural communities across the nation on how to safely work in and around full grain bins to try to prevent and reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with grain handling and storage.
Workers who enter full grain bins can potentially die from suffocation if the worker is engulfed by grain or if the bin has developed hazardous atmospheres where there is not enough oxygen within the bin to sustain human life.
Some examples of how this dangerous scenario usually occurs include a worker who enters a bin and stands on moving/flowing grain and the moving grain acts like “quicksand, burying the worker in seconds. According to a source used for researching this article “at the average flow rate for grain, a 6-foot tall worker can be covered with grain in 11 seconds and would be unable to free him/her self after the first 5 seconds.”
Another scenario places a worker on a “bridging” condition that collapses and buries the worker. “Bridging” occurs when grain clumps together, because of moisture or mold, creating an empty space beneath the grain as it is released. Grain in a “bridged” condition resists the downward pull that would normally move loose grain to the bin outlet. This hazardous grain condition rarely becomes hard enough to support a person. If a worker steps onto the “bridge”, it can cave in under the worker’s weight, burying them in the empty space underneath.
A worker who tries to loosen a pile of grain and the grain caves in on the worker, or the worker stands next to a pile of grain on the side of the bin and the grain unexpectedly caves in is another scenario. Even though a wall of grain may appear safe, one scoop of grain may weaken support and cause the grain to cave in. If a worker is knocked off balance by the weight of grain, he or she can be covered quickly and suffocate. In some cases, grain can be loosened from outside the bin by bumping it with a pole through an access cover.
The last most common scenario that leads to death in a grain bin accident is when atmospheric conditions inside the bin are at dangerous levels. Inside a grain storage bin, there is a potential for oxygen levels to be at unsafe levels. There is also a potential for hazardous gases to be build up to dangerous levels within the confines of the bin. These hazardous atmospheres conditions could be present within a bin resulting in a worker quickly suffocating.
Nationwide has collected these statistics to help spread awareness and caution when working with grain bins.
Suffocation from engulfment is the leading cause of death in grain bins.
Accidents in grain bins often result in multiple deaths because other workers attempt to rescue their co-workers and become trapped or overcome as well.
In the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62 percent.
In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfment − the highest number on record.
Nationwide has selected “Rescue Tubes and Training” for the 2015 Grain Bin Safety Week theme. The theme highlights the critical role that first responders play in saving those who become entrapped in full grain bins.
“Volunteer firefighters are often a rural area’s first and only line of defense when the call goes out” Nationwide stated on their resources website.
Luckily for Cavalier County, many of the volunteer firefighters have received training on rescuing people from grain bins.
“Casselton Fire Department did a county wide instruction and who ever wanted to could participate” Jeremy Schuler , Langdon Fire Chief said.
The training took place in Langdon and volunteer firefighters from all across Cavalier County. There are nine total rural volunteer fire departments. These volunteers come from the communities of Milton, Osnabrock, Nekoma, Langdon, Wales, Hanna, Sarles, Calvin, and Munich.
While the rural fire departments have rescued individuals from grain bins before, the rescuers did not have any of the recommended equipment to assist them. One important part of rescuing individuals from engulfment in grain bins are grain rescue tubes. None of the rural fire departments in Cavalier County have this vital equipment.
“We can get to the training whenever we need to but to have those tools where someone gets trapped in a bin would be great” Schuler stated.
This year, as part of the National Grain Bin Safety Week, Nationwide has partnered with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), Grain Systems, Inc. (GSI) and KC Supply Co. to award multiple fire departments with grain bin rescue tubes and specialized rescue training.
“The only way to safely remove someone trapped in a bin is to remove the grain around the person’s body. And the best way to do that is to arm emergency personnel with the proper tools and training” Nationwide stated on their website.
This is the second year that Nationwide has held this contest and have decided to expand the contest to include multiple winners.
“We’re accepting nominations from the general public. And firefighters can nominate their own fire department.” Nationwide states.
Dan Neenan, director of NECAS, will travel with a state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube to the winning locations to conduct a one-day, six-hour training session. Loaded on a 20-foot trailer and able to hold approximately 100 bushels of the grain, the simulator is the perfect training ground.
“Until we can convince all farmers and other grain handlers to stop entering grain bins, we will continue to work with our Ag partners to help make tubes and training available to fire departments. The chances of surviving an engulfment are greatly increased if there’s a rescue tube available to fire departments nearby” Nationwide states.
If you would like to enter any of the Cavalier County Rural Fire Departments please see the following. The contest ends May 31, 2015.
To enter, provide your name, occupation, phone number, mailing and email address, the name, address and phone number of the fire department or emergency rescue team, and one page describing how the department or team and rural community would benefit from grain entrapment training and rescue tube, and how they plan to share the tube and training with nearby departments.
You can submit your nomination in one of three ways: online, via email or by mail.
Mail: NECAS, Grain Bin Safety Ag Contest, 8342 NICC Dr., Peosta, IA 52068