By Deb Helbach
Five seconds. In just a matter of five precious seconds, a person can be entrapped (buried in grain beyond the point of self extraction) in a grain bin. Shockingly, in just under a minute, engulfment (being completely submerged beneath the surface of the grain) can occur. By the time you are waist deep in the grain, it would take 600 lbs. of force plus your body weight to free you. The average rescue time for someone in a grain engulfment is 3.5 hours. In the past 50 years, 900 cases of grain entrapment and engulfment have been reported, with a 62% fatality rate according to researchers at the University of Perdue. Farming is ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations according to the National Safety Council. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that farmers are 800% more likely to die on the job than any other occupation. In 2018, Wisconsin was one of five states with the most reported cases of fatal and non-fatal confined incidents. These are definitely eye-opening facts!
The fall harvest of 2019 proved to be challenging to say the least for farmers. They were in a race against time to get their crops off the fields in between the fluctuating weather, causing crops to be harvested in less than ideal conditions.
When grain is harvested and not dried down enough, it can become moldy, in turn causing it to go out of condition. This will then cause the grain to bridge, clump, and clog equipment. When this happens, it needs to be broken up.
How this is done matters greatly—so much so that it can become a matter of life and death if not done with caution. Given the rise of incidents of grain bin-related deaths, it is imperative for us as a rural community to address the potential dangers associated with grain bins and how we can further prevent injuries and fatalities. If it happens, will our community be prepared to deal with such an emergency?
Grain bin deaths have hit record numbers and now, more than ever, we need to educate ourselves. On February 14, 2020, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation designating February 16-22, 2020, as National Grain Bin Safety Week. Our fear in 2020 was that it would bring more grain bin incidents.
Many states and organizations across the country are having a silo movement as well to raise awareness. Our community will be joining the silo movement, too. The Amherst Fire District, Amherst FFA Chapter, and the Jensen Community Center invite you to save the date and attend a free screening of the documentary Silo on Sunday, August 22, with showings at 2 and 4:30 p.m. There will be discussion after each showing and displays of rescue equipment. I hope to see you there!
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