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Grain Handling Safety is No Laughing Matter

Grain Handling Safety is No Laughing Matter
Danger lurks when it's a real situation.

The temptation was probably there for young Dillon Muhlenkamp to put a couple of kids playing in the wagon of shelled corn being unloaded at the farmstead in the farm scene he built as a 4-H project for the Jay County fair. After all, for kids on the farm wagons can seem like a big play area.

Some families have learned the hard way that there have to be limits and rules about what kids, especially young kids, can and can't do and where they can or can't be around the farm at various times during the year. Playing in a load of grain is perilous, and when it's being unloaded it's downright dangerous.

All too real: This model depicts how corn flows out of a gravity wagon. If a child was inside, they could easily be sucked into the vortex and pulled under the grain, leading to suffocation.

In the farm scene Muhlenkamp depicted, some grain had already flowed out of the wagon into the auger taking it into a storage bin. The characteristic cone indicated as much. He had a man on the ground, standing away from moving parts but close enough to handle controls, and included an older John Deere tractor for effect, pulling the wagon, with everything to scale. Fortunately, there were no children in his scene.

What people don't realize is how quickly someone can be trapped in grain, even in a gravity wagon load of grain, notes Bill Field, Purdue University Extension safety specialist. Even if the dad or grandpa or a hired man is outside, with the auger running, it may not be possible to hear someone once they're trapped in a wagon load of corn.

The pull is such that a child can be submerged in seconds, Field says. The way to prevent it is not allow children to play near the grain center during harvest.

A real-life accident at the Union Mills facility of Co-Alliance took the life of an employee last week. However, officials report it was believed to be linked to a dust explosion, not an entrapment in grain. Handling grain is a precarious job, and should be treated as such.

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