What would you do if you were suddenly trapped in a grain bin and couldn’t move your legs to get out of a sinking pile? Mike Manning asks many classes of young workers this question when he presents information on how to train to work in confined spaces, including grain bins.
Manning travels Indiana presenting these programs to high school classes and older groups of young adults who might find themselves working in grain bins, or other confined spaces in an agricultural job. The program is sponsored by the Purdue Extension safety program.
“Most people I ask to demonstrate how they would react stand up and either stick their hands straight up, or start flailing their hands,” he says. “Neither one of those actions is going to be of any help. You certainly can’t use your hands stretched out or above your head to help push yourself out of the pile. There is nothing to push on, and the force is much too great.”
He demonstrates what would happen to a person who suddenly finds themselves stuck in flowing grain by using a stick figure, named ‘Lucky’, placed inside a glass jar that represents a grain bin. He turns on a spigot so grain flows. ‘Lucky’ rides the cone down until he is emerged up to his neck.
“He’s only called Lucky because I rescue him every time,” Manning says. “In real life he wouldn’t be so lucky.”
Manning says most experts recommend that if you should find yourself in the situation, the best thing to do is to cross your arms across your chest. “You need to protect your chest because you need to be able to keep breathing to have any chance of survival,” Manning says. “If you protect your chest you can buy some time for your lungs to keep working, and give yourself a chance. Many deaths in grain bins are from suffocation because the pressure of the corn on the chest doesn’t allow the person to breathe.”