LOCAL UNITS AT READY AS NEWS OF GRAIN BIN DEATHS MAKE HEADLINES
Feb 13, 2020
A stranger's death in familiar territory can come as a shudder, even when it's a state away.
A Minnesota man lost his life in a grain bin accident at the end of January, another in August. Similar awful news came up in back-to-back deaths in Illinois in January, followed by another just a few days ago. And in September, two other death were reported in Wisconsin. In January, two grain companies were cited and fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"Aberdeen Fire Rescue has responded to one grain bin rescue since 1999. The grain bin rescue was located at the North Central Farmers Elevator facility at Warner on Oct. 19, 2010," said Joel Weig, battalion chief with the fire department.In the wake of those tragedies, producers have taken to social media to share their care and concerns along with warnings of the danger of crusted grain and condemnation of death-taunting acts.
Ag gatherings like the Northern Corn and Soybean Expo at the Fargodome in North Dakota earlier this month have included demonstrations of grain bin rescues and advocation of safety measures. Aberdeen has had a number of its own such demos.
"With wet grain (and the) weather conditions, it’s no surprise. Put the stuff in wet and the damn stuff gets hung up on the sides," said Michael Roemmich, a lieutenant with Aberdeen Fire & Rescue. "But going in grain bins is just asking for trouble."
That was a close call, but there were no fatalities.
"Just in South Dakota, we’ve been called to three," said Beth Locken, director of safety and environment with Agtegra, an agriculture cooperative that covers a large swath of the Dakotas.
Those events were in the past seven years or so, she said. The grain cooperative has a rescue team and keeps a close relationship with city and rural fire departments while also outfitting them with life-saving equipment. Roemmich said the Agtegra rescue crew is a great asset.
"Cody Bonn and his team is great. If you're going to learn, learn from experts," Roemmich said. "To be honest we co-op trainings with them. They extend a hand when they have trainings. We take an active role in doing that. When we have active training we call them up. They know our capabilities, we know their capabilities. The reality is that if something happens, we are all going to be there anyway."
"About 10 years ago, we donated 60 to 70 rescue tubes to rural fire departments in our trade area" Locken said.
The rescue tubes come in four aluminum parts that are slid down around a person engulfed in grain.
"If they are stuck in the middle we build a coffer dam around them (and it) forms a circle around the employee. Like putting a little grain bin inside of the big grain bin," said Locken.
Then a small auger removes the grain from between the tube and the person while the tube protects the person from being further buried in the grain bin. The departments train with a trailer that was developed to simulate a grain bin rescue.
A grain bin rescue training exercise is performed by Aberdeen Fire & Rescue and Agtegra personnel. It uses a grain bin rescue tube. The tube surrounds a person caught in grain, then a rescue-specific auger is used to remove the grain while the tube protects from another collapse. The person is then raised out of the tube and the bin through a harness mechanism. Courtesy photo
Weig answered a more questions about grain bin rescues and training.
Question: What equipment does the fire department have for grain bin rescues and how is it used?
- Rope rescue and confined space equipment for lowering and raising rescuers, victims and equipment in and out of a grain bins.
- Air monitoring equipment for monitoring the oxygen levels, lower explosive limit, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.
- Grain bin rescue tube for building a containment wall around a victim to prevent further entrapment.
- Grain bin rescue auger for removing grain from around the victim inside of the rescue tube so that the person can be freed.
Q: What type of training do first responders have for grain bin rescues?
A: All Aberdeen Fire Rescue personnel are trained with specialized training in rope rescue and/or confined space rescue.
Q: What cooperation do you have with the large grain entities like Agtegra for these types of safety measures? Or how do you work with elevators to help prevent them?
A: Pre-incident planning is an important factor in preparing to handle these types of incidents. Aberdeen Fire Rescue regularly trains with the Agtegra grain engulfment team and Livestock Specialists Inc.
Q: What are the conditions that increase the danger in a grain bin?
- Engulfment in a flowing column of grain is entrapment or suffocation caused when an individual is drawn into a flowing grain column.
- Collapse of horizontal crusted grain surface is when the top surface of the grain in a bin has become caked due to spoilage and the surface appears solid. It is, in fact, a thin layer of crusted grain concealing a void created when grain underneath has been removed.
- Collapse of vertical crusted grain surface is when a wall of free-standing grain piles at an angle of 30 degrees. If it is spoiled or caked, it can stand in an almost vertical pile. As grain is removed from the base of the caked mass, the potential for avalanche and engulfment develops.
- Atmospheric hazards happen when oxygen is less than 19.5% or greater than 23.5%, and the lower explosive limit is greater than 10%, carbon monoxide is greater than 25% and hydrogen sulfide levels are higher than 10 parts per million.
Q: When farmers are working in a bin, what protocols should they follow to be safe?
- Always avoid entering a grain storage bin if at, all possible.
- Turn off and disconnect, lock out or block off all powered equipment, especially grain moving equipment like augers.
- Evaluate atmospheric hazards.
- Check that no grain hazards exists, such as grain hung on the sides or too steep of a grain mass that can avalanche or bridge in wet conditions.
- Wear a full body harness and lifeline when in the grain over waist deep and be secured so they can not sink into the grain further than waist deep.
- Ensure that there are no engulfment hazards when they are inside and on the grain.
- Never walk down grain to make it flow as that is an unsafe practice.
- Have a standby observer.