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Mike Manning, of Purdue University, left, with the help of Andy Howell, a member of the Crawford County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, and "Lucky," a small doll, demonstrates how quickly a person can sink into a flowing grain bin. Photo By Chris Adams

Grain entrapment prevention topic at 67th SWCD meeting

February 24, 2016
For the 67th time, farmers and landowners gathered earlier this month for the Crawford County Soil and Water Conservation District's annual breakfast meeting. The focus of this year's keynote speaker was farm safety, specifically in regard to grain silos.

Mike Manning, of Purdue University, told those seated in the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School cafeteria on Feb. 6 that it takes only a few seconds for a grain accident to turn deadly.

Compounding the dangerousness of the situation, he said, is family-owned farms, unlike larger commercial operations, are not subject to Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversight, meaning they are exempt from specific regulations and training programs.

Manning said that, while everyone would agree that the family is the most important part of a family farm, there is a "disconnect," as families don't talk about safety like they should.

Following a video detailing real-life deaths from grain bin accidents, Manning noted that the majority of such incidents occur to people younger than 21, because they still have the belief that they are invincible, and those ages 55 to 65, as they have been working on a farm most of their lives and become complacent.

Since 1964, Purdue University has recorded more than 700 cases of flowing grain entrapment nationwide. That number, Manning said, is probably higher, because many non-fatal incidents likely go unreported.

The No. 1 identified cause of entrapment was out-of-condition grain, Manning said, noting other risk factors include high-capacity grain handling systems, working alone, relaxed compliance with workplace safety regulations and lack of knowledge concerning the risk.

"The entrapment and engulfment happens so quickly," he said.

Manning said that, when he talks to young people, they say, if they were to sink in grain, they would just flail their arms and legs to push themselves back to the top. Doing so, however, would be impossible, he said, explaining weight from the grain would be far too great. He said the best thing for a person to do, instead, would be to cross their arms to protect their lung capacity.

"You have to have oxygen whenever you're in those situations," he said.

To illustrate how quickly a person can sink in a flowing grain entrapment, Manning called upon "Lucky," a small doll that he placed in a clear container of grain. After Manning opened a hole in the bottom for the grain slowly to escape, it was just a matter of seconds before Lucky had sunk to his chest in the grain.

"When you get to this point, you are not in a position to get yourself out," he said.

While flowing grain is the top type of entrapment, there are others, he said, including the collapse of a horizontally crusted grain surface, where the top of the grain appears stable only to cave in as there is hollow space just below it, Manning said. Others include the collapse of a vertically crusted grain surface, grain transport vehicles, use of grain vacuum machines, an outdoor pile avalanche and a storage structure failure.

Manning said the two primary rescue techniques are to remove the grain from around the victim and to utilize a grain retaining wall or rescue tube to extricate the victim from the grain mass.

He cautioned not to jump into the bin to try to rescue someone, as the victim could be buried deeper by inflowing grain. Manning also warned that the victim cannot be pulled free without injury.

Manning said the best thing those on a family farm can do is to make sure everyone is aware of the proper safety procedures.

"These are things we can do," he said. "We can have this talk with our family."

Also at the annual meeting, several farmers were recognized for their efforts, including Richard and Ashira Young, who received the 2015 Master Farmer Award; Shannon and Robin Haney, who were named the 2015 Conservation Farmer of the Year; and William and Geneva Raison, who were given the 2015 Forestry Award.

Winners of the annual poster contest, by division, were: Third Grade: Ava Walker, first place; Haidyn Crecelius, second place; Peyton Stone, third place; Fourth Grade: Lillian Butler, first place; Caden Menke, second place; Austin Sheckells; third place; Fifth Grade: Masi Whittaker, first place; Levi Cummings, second place; Allysen Armstrong, third place; Sixth Grade: Sarah Stutzman, first place; Laken Hollen, second place; Taylor Herbaugh, third place; and Seventh Grade: Tasha Wiseman, first place; Danielle Sommerman, second place; Emilee Sorensen, third place.

In addition, Garry Brown was re-elected to the SWCD Board of Supervisors and updates were given by the Farm Services Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Purdue University Extension Service.

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