By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
OREGON, Ill. — Information to rescue a worker trapped in a grain bin is important, but the Grain Handling Safety Coalition believes it’s even more crucial to provide practical information to prevent entrapment.
The organization’s mission is “to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities across the grain industry spectrum through safety education, prevention and outreach.”
“We’re not presenting rescue information, but prevention information,” said University of Illinois educator James Theuri.
Theuri, along with U of I extension educator Bob Aherin and Lynn McClure, manager of Western Grain Marketing LLC, presented a grain handling safety workshop Nov. 27 at the Ogle County Farm Bureau in Oregon. The daylong workshop was sponsored by the Ogle County Farm Bureau, the Grain Handling Safety Coalition and extension offices in Ogle, Boone and DeKalb counties.
“This is the first time we’ve presented this program. We plan to present it in other parts of the state after the first of the year,” Aherin said. “We want you to interact with us. We want you to discuss the issues you see. We need to know what to focus on, and how to present these issues better.
“Most elevators are under OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. But, just because you work on a farm, don’t totally turn off your thought process. OSHA standards that apply to elevators are nationally-recognized work practices, minimum safe work procedures.
“The more we do to improve safety beyond the standards, the more lives will be saved,” he added.
The day started with an overview of what the educators hoped to show those assembled, mostly elevator employees. The first step was identifying the six major grain hazards: engulfment, falls, electric, entanglement, being struck and dust explosions as well as others, including respiratory dust exposure and noise exposure.
“Once you become engulfed, you have seconds to survive. Rescue efforts become recovery efforts,” Aherin said.
He played a brief video about two boys who died in a grain bin engulfment in nearby Mount Carroll just two years ago. Wyatt Whitebread was just 14 at the time of his death. Alex Pacas was 19. Both became engulfed in a grain bin while working at an elevator.
Pacas’ aunt, Catherine Rylatt, was instrumental in the establishment of the Grain Handling Safety Coalition.
Aherin discussed times to stay out of grain bins – when grain is moving or flowing and any time it might be hung up on the sides of the bin over a worker’s head. Slips, trips and falls were discussed as well, not only falling into grain, but anywhere around moving equipment, such as gears, belts and PTO shafts.
Theuri said it’s important to keep long hair up and any loose clothing away from moving parts. Never step on or jump over moving equipment.
“Guards are there for a reason. It might take longer to remove them to work on a piece of equipment, but that guard might save a limb,” he said.
The easiest way to ensure equipment is safe to work on is to “lock out, tag out and try out.” Disconnect the power source and lock it out. The person working on the equipment is the only one who should have a key to that lock. Tag the lock so everyone else knows it is being worked on. And, be sure to try the piece of equipment to know the correct one has been locked out.
McClure demonstrated sometimes, it is necessary to enter bins – to loosen grain hung up on the sides, for example. However, it can be done safely.
First and foremost, he advised, “Don’t let anybody get you flustered or in a hurry. When you’re in a hurry, you make mistakes. There’s always that driver who wants to get one more load at the end of the day who’s rushing you.
“I’d like to tell you: Don’t work alone. Don’t go into flowing grain. Don’t go into a grain bin if there’s a hazard. If you’re going into a grain bin, you have to have a plan in place to get out of the grain bin.”
He had available to show a couple of different safety harnesses, ropes and carabiners used by employees at elevators he manages, but cautioned, “A lifeline won’t save you in every case. Use common sense.”
For more information about the Grain Handling Safety Coalition and upcoming training sessions, contact your local extension office. (It will have a website, but it is not yet operational.)