‘It only takes seconds’ (Editorial)

by | Aug 12, 2022

The awarding of 11 grain rescue tubes to Maryland and Delaware fire departments through Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety advocacy campaign is worth much more than the recognition they are due. It is quite literally a lifesaving effort.
Every year, farmers and commercial grain handlers risk their lives by entering grain bins to remove clumped or rotted grain.
Nationally, accidents in grain bins have increased in recent years, according to Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program and historically. About 60 percent of cases are fatal.
This year’s awards doubles the number of grain rescue tubes in the two states received from the program since it began in 2014. The number of fire departments receiving training on how to use the equipment in the event of a grain engulfment has likely increased by far more than that as departments who are given the equipment invite surrounding departments to attend training workshops.
Having more rescue tubes available to first responders greatly increases the chances of success during bin rescues.
“It only takes seconds, or a simple mistake, for an adult to sink in the quicksand-like flow of grain and become fully entrapped or engulfed,” said Brad Liggett, Nationwide’s president of agribusiness in a news release. “Adding to the risk is a lack of rescue equipment available to local fire departments and emergency responders who are called for help when a worker becomes trapped.”
Along with Nationwide and safety campaign partners, there are plenty of hat tips that need to go around. The county Farm Bureaus who nominated departments to receive the equipment and training understand the seriousness of the issue and the need to have specialized equipment for first responders. Volunteer firefighters who attend the all-important training recognize the uniqueness of a grain entrapment compared to the many other accidents and knowing what to do is crucial when every second matters.
The agriculture groups who repeatedly push the message of safety around and especially inside grain bins keep the issue front and center, using education to ward off complacency.
Each of them play an important role and locally, each has stepped up their vigilance on grain bin safety. It does not go unnoticed.
Accidents and injuries in grain bins may not be as common as transportation-related accidents but farmers take risk every time they enter a bin.
Repeatedly entering and exiting safely can also add to the risk as farm workers may let their guard down on safety, thinking they’ve done this a thousand times and nothing has gone wrong. But one slip can change that in the blink of an eye.
In less than four seconds, a person can be immobilized by flowing grain after falling into a bin.
At 10 seconds, the person will be waist deep in grain and pressure on their torso will restrict their breathing. After 20-25 seconds, the person will be completely submerged in grain and the threat of asphyxiation becomes almost impossible to escape.
The presence of a grain tube and trained firefighters in an area should not replace the safety measures someone should take going into a grain bin. Wear a harness, use a “lock out/tag out” system to keep someone else from turning on an auger and do not work in a bin alone.
But accidents can still happen, and having the rescue tubes available and people trained to use them should absolutely be part of the equation.
Hopefully, it is an equation of addition, for as impressive as it is that so many Farm Bureaus have stepped up with nominations, many more in the years to come — one for every volunteer fire department, would be a welcome sight.

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