Grain Bin Safety Group Focuses On Prevention
By Jeff Bossert
An Illinois group dedicated to safe operations in grain bins says it’s seeking to build a team of trainers to prevent tragedies like Wednesday’s death in Sidney.
A preliminary autopsy shows 55-year old Roy McCarty of Sidney died of asphyiation Wednesday afternoon at the Premier Cooperative Elevator.
Jeff Adkisson is with the Illinois Grain Handling Safety Coalition, and Vice President of the Illinois Grain and Feed Association.
He said there haven’t many new developments in terms of safety standards, but the key is simply making sure commercial grain operators and farmers are up to speed.
Adkisson grew up on a grain and livestock farm, said he speaks from personal experience.
"You know, when we're young, and we're around this, we think we're big enough, strong enough, fast enough that will never happen to me," he said. "After we've done it for 20 years, we look at it with the mindset of 'oh, I've done this a million times before this way and I've never had an incident. It's that next time, that first time after a million, that we have that problem."
Safety measures recommended for the grain bins include harnesses, lifelines, as well ensuring that all equipment is turned off when entering a bin. Adkisson is also recommending that whoever enters the bin is the only one holding a key, out of concern that someone else turns equipment back on, unaware someone is inside.
"If you've taken grain out of the bin, what condition is it in?," Adkisson said. "Is it sloped appropriately, or is (the grain) getting out of condition? Often times, especially in 2009, (when wet grain didn't store well), there are lot of problems in getting it to flow out of the bins."
University of Illinois agricultural engineering professor Bob Aherin said many bins don’t have what’s needed to prevent such accidents once someone is inside.
He said a system developed by the Safety Coalition is easy to install, costs less than $1,000, and requires three people to operate.
“Two people that are near the entrance controlling the safety rope that’s on the harness of the person that’s doing the work in the bin, and moving around the grain," he said. "They minimize the amount of slack that they have – they should really only have 1 to 2 feet of slack. If they happen to fall, it senses the rope moving fast, and protects the person from falling any further.”
Adkisson says anyone can request training seminars, ranging from local farm bureaus to FFA chapters to concerned citizens. Aherin said it’s tough getting some farmers and community groups to attend safety training, but they enjoy it once involved in the seminars.
The incident in Sidney is believed to be Illinois’ first grain bin death this year. A Veedersberg, Indiana farmer died in a similar incident in mid-June.
Two young boys died in a grain bin in Mount Carroll, Illinois in 2011. There have been 180 such reported incidets in 34 states since 1984.