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Illinois safety group targets young farm workers to train
 
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent
 
DECATUR, Ill. — A growing group of volunteers devoted to grain bin safety took their message to the nation’s largest outdoor farm machinery show last  month, with a specific target audience in mind: Young farm workers.
 
“We really pick on the youth, because the guys my age are too set in their ways and already know it all,” said Lynn Mc-Clure, a volunteer with the Grain Handling Safety Coalition (GHSC), who was at the 64th Farm Progress Show on August 29 to demonstrate its Grain Bin Lifeline Protection System.

The system uses a wall anchor, pulley, lifeline and harness to prevent grain bin entrants from sinking past waist-deep in grain and stop falls when grain surfaces collapse. “The youth are still in a mindset to be taught,” McClure noted, in between demonstrations of the system to farm families who brought their kids to the show.

Farm Progress is just one of the agricultural fairs and expositions GHSC volunteers attend on a regular basis, spreading a message that was born out of necessity.
 
“The (GHSC) started from a tragic incident during 2010 in Mt. Carroll, Illinois,” explained GHSC’s Jeffrey Decker, who operates Decker Consulting and Investigations, an agricultural accident and product failure investigations company in Lerna, Ill. “There were four young men in a grain bin and two died that day. The aunt of one of the boys who died that day started the coalition.”

Losing their lives on July 28, 2010, were 14-year-old Wyatt Whitebread and 19-year-old Alex Pacas. Will Piper, 20, was trapped for several hours before being rescued after Chris Lawton, 15, was able to escape and call for help.

Pacas’ aunt, Catherine Rylatt, saw the need to educate and train grain bin employees and operators about safety, and reached out to Dr. Robert Aherin, Agricultural Safety and Health Program leader at the University of Illinois. With his assistance, individuals, organizations and agencies connected with the grain industry were recruited to collectively deliver community-based grain safety awareness and education to farming communities.

The mission statement of the GHSC is to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities across the grain industry spectrum through safety education, prevention and outreach.

“We work with Farm Bureaus and extensions to offer training classes using OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) grant money. We just held two classes in Nebraska, and we have been as far away as Washington state. We offer access to free safety materials on our website, and we are currently working on an online training program,” said Decker.

“Basically, we are a group of industry professionals, people that work at elevators, people that work for insurance companies and grain bin manufacturing companies and others. We’re pulling together all our expertise to get these materials and training out there. Though we  started in central Illinois, we are now anational organization and we welcome anyone that wants to join and help out.”

To better target youth, GHSC has created the STAND T.A.L.L. Young Workers program, which offers training curriculum and educational resources for young grain storage and elevator workers.

While teaching youth about common, sometimes deadly, grain handling hazards, the program also empowers them to speak up when they feel a work hazard is present.

The curriculum meets educational standards and is designed for presentation in classrooms, community settings or for clubs like FFA and 4-H. 
 
Ironically, after slightly shifting the primary target of GHSC’s message from adults and employers to youthful grain bin workers, older farmers seem to be more drawn to the coalition’s message, according to Decker. “Lately at some of the shows, there are farmers in their sixties and seventies coming in and wanting to talk about safety systems. We’ll ask him what changed, and he will say that his kids will be taking over the farm and he doesn’t want to see anything happen to them,” he explained. “The mindset is changing, though it is a long, slow, tedious process. But we are getting there.”

Along with information on the STAND T.A.L.L. program, GHSC offers “best practice” prevention strategies for entrapment and engulfment, falls, entanglement, electrical hazards such as augers and power lines, falling or thrown objects and dust explosions on the coalition website at www.GRAINSAFETY.org

To make a contribution to the GHSC, contact Aherin at 217-333-9417 or raherin@illinois.edu or Jeff Adkisson of the Grain and Feed Assoc. of Illinois at 217-787-2417 or jeffa@gfai.org 
9/14/2017