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Be safe in your grain bins

During Grain Bin Safety Week 2020, Nationwide launches contest to award grain rescue tubes to fire departments.

Feb. 16-22 is Grain Bin Safety Week. To raise awareness of these dangers and prevent all-too-common accidents, Nationwide has launched its seventh annual Nominate Your Fire Department Contest in recognition of Grain Bin Safety Week. The goal is to help prevent injuries and fatalities by promoting safe bin-entry procedures when entry is absolutely necessary. Nominations for this year's Nominate Your Fire Department Contest are open until April 30.

Since 2014, Nationwide has awarded grain rescue tubes and training to 111 fire departments in 26 states. 

"When we initiated Grain Bin Safety Week in 2014, the goal was to reduce the occurrence of grain bin accidents by raising awareness of the hazards and by equipping first responders with the tools and training needed to respond quickly when necessary," said Brad Liggett, president of Nationwide Agribusiness.

Four fire departments included in the program have already put their tubes and training to action by rescuing workers trapped in grain bins. In 2017, the Glenville Fire Department in Minnesota received a call to assist a local farmer who had fallen into a grain silo. Utilizing the grain rescue tube and training provided to them nearly two years earlier, first responders were able to save the man's life even though he'd been engulfed up to his face in flowing corn.

Most recently in June 2019, the Wauzeka Fire Department in Wisconsin utilized its rescue tube to save the life of a farmer trapped for more than an hour before he was discovered by a truck driver. 

"In June, we were dispatched to help a neighboring department needing assistance with an individual entrapped in a grain bin," said Nick Zeeh, fire chief for the Wauzeka Fire Department. "Thanks to the training provided by Nationwide and its partners, every emergency responder had a good understanding of the steps they needed to take, and we were able to achieve the ultimate goal – the victim survived and everyone returned home. I can safely say without the grain bin rescue training, we would not have been as prepared or as effective in responding to the situation."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who issued a grain bin safety week proclamation, talked about the importance of grain bin safety with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, whose father died in a grain bin accident. Noem has been an advocate for increased grain bin safety efforts for years.

“We hope grain operators, farmers and community leaders will join us in expanding knowledge of safe practices not just during National Grain Bin Safety Week, but year-round,” Perdue said.

“My life changed forever when we lost my dad in a grain bin accident, and while farmers are often in a hurry to get things done, nothing is worth losing a life," Noem said. "This Grain Bin Safety Week, I want to encourage producers to evaluate safety procedures on their farms and ranches. Slow down and be safe – your family will thank you for it.”

The purpose of Grain Bin Safety Week is to promote education and awareness of hazards and safe work practices in an effort to reduce the number of accidents associated with grain handling and storage. According to researchers at Purdue University:

  • 370 grain entrapment cases have been recorded in the last 10 years.
  • In 2018, 30 cases were documented, representing a 30% increase from 2017, with 15 resulting in fatalities. Purdue estimates that 30% of cases go unreported each year.
  • A recent story from United Press International highlighted an uptick in grain bin accidents, with at least 14 people killed in grain bins between August and December 2019.

University of Illinois Extension offers several precautions for grain bin safety, including:

  • Have another person, preferably two people, outside the bin who can help is you become entrapped. These people should be trained in rescue procedures and should know and follow safety procedures for entering the bin.
  • If it is necessary to enter the bin, remember to shut off the power to augers and fans. It is a good idea to lock out any unloading equipment before you enter a bin to prevent someone from unintentionally starting the equipment while you are in the bin.
  • Where possible, ladders should be installed inside grain bins for an emergency exit. Ladders are easier to locate if there are brightly painted stripes just above or behind the ladder.

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety provides safety training to emergency responders who manage incidents involving agricultural injuries and equipment.

The NECAS, Nationwide and Corteva Agriscience will host a live grain engulfment simulation and rescue demonstration on Feb. 21 at NECAS in Peosta, Iowa.

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