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Corn+Soybean Digest

Farmers Should Practice Safety When Working Near Grain Bins

If you talk to our readers I'd guess most of them would have some story about the inherent dangers of climbing into a grain bin. Some of those stories would even be first person. Some would have disastrous endings.

In the last couple months, for example, two major grain-bin rescue operations occurred within an hour's drive of my office. Fortunately in both cases it was rescue, not recovery.

The idea of being engulfed in grain inside a dark bin makes me shudder. I'm sure that's because as a kid I had a similar experience. It wasn't life threatening,but it was plenty scary.

In 2008, there were 10 reported on-farm grain bin entrapments nationwide with five of those resulting in death, according to Purdue University stats.

At the recent National Farm Machinery Show, GSI grain handling conducted a mock grain bin rescue, led by Bill Harp, a certified Safety & Technical Rescue Association expert (call him at 313-415-4658).

GSI used a mini grain bin filled with tiny plastic pellets to mimic real grain, then rigged up a harness to one of the bystanders, Andy Burchen, a 24-year-old farmer from Pearl City, IL. His buddy Ross Bremmer acted as part of the rescue team.

“I was surprised at how fast I got sucked in,” said Andy as he stepped into the bin. “I felt my heart rate change and I felt the pulse in my legs in only five to six minutes. I felt kind of panicky.”

AS PART OF the rescue process, Andy was in a harness, so were Bremmer and Harp. The two rescuers immediately began surrounding Andy with a four-section coffer dam called the Res-Q tube. At 60-in. tall, it's made of lightweight aluminum for ease of transport and use, and sells for $2,500 from GSI. Liberty Rescue Systems also markets a tube.

The tube stops the flow of grain toward the victim and blocks any additional pressure that may be created by the rescuers, says Harp. Once in place, the now-limited amount of grain inside the tube is removed to free the victim. In this case, a Shop-Vac was used to remove the pellets.

“GSI pays for us to travel and conduct demonstrations,” says Harp. “It lasts three hours and we use real people, not dummies.” You can book a free demo through GSI, too, just by going to

So get your local fire department or FFA chapter together and sign up for this life-saving experience. It's worth your time, and maybe your life.

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