Is there such a thing as being too accurate? When your September issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer arrives any day now, you'll find a story about grain bin safety. The primary source, Bill Field, Purdue University Farm Safety Specialist, discusses that grain bin deaths are up slightly even though overall farm accident deaths are declining. He also notes that grain bin deaths are occurring more frequently in recent times at commercial facilities. Traditionally, they've been more often connected to farmers and farm employees working in grain handling facilities on the farm.
Just hours after that copy was approved and sent to print, the news broke across the state that a worker was apparently trapped inside a commercial grain facility in Lapel. It turned out to be a rescue mission, and after more than 8 hours, the body of the worker was recovered from the huge bin.
Here's the warning to heed when you read Field's story. It's especially timely in light of the fact that nearly everyone believes at this point that this year's corn crop, while perhaps a good yielder due to summer rains and cool weather despite a late start, will be wet at harvest. It may turn out to be the highest moisture content-corn harvested in many years on average. That puts pressure on getting it dried and keeping it in condition properly, especially when it may have been a while since you deal with high-moisture corn coming out of the field.
"The best way to prevent grain bin disasters is to put grain into bins in good condition, and maintain quality, preventing spoilage," you'll read Field say in the upcoming story. And he says it with good reason. Most grain bin accidents involve someone trying to break up a clog caused by crusted grain, linked to spoilage, that wedges itself above the unloading well in a bin, shutting off flow of grain to the unloading auger.
The solution is locking out electric supply to the auger and going in with a pole if necessary, poking until the clog is free, having someone else along just outside with you, preferably at the top of the bin, Field notes. The biggest drawback is that it takes more time than doing it with the auger running, and may require an extra trip or two back into the bin until you're sure it's free.
What's a few extra minutes and the aggravation of climbing back into a bin compared to the rest of your life? Unfortunately, another Hoosier family is dealing with that reality once again.