Feb 17 2017
By Rep. Kristi Noem
My dad was one of those people who just got things done. He worked hard and he worked fast. It’s a skill set many farmers share, but that day, I wish he would have slowed down a bit. He had gone into a grain bin and things went wrong. By the time I got there, neighbors were digging through piles of corn from the bin that was torn apart trying to find him. When they did, CPR started immediately. Despite the doctors working to save him for hours, we lost him that day and in that instant, my whole world changed.
In 2014, more than three dozen farmers were trapped in grain bins, resulting in at least 17 deaths. In most cases, it took only seconds for the producer to become engulfed – and getting out without assistance at this point is nearly impossible. Still, there are things that can be done to help prevent accidents like this and improve the chance of a successful recovery if something does go wrong.
Every year, the last week of February is reserved as Grain Bin Safety Week. It’s a good opportunity to take a look at some of your operation’s practices to see if there’s something more you could do to improve the safety of your farm.
A few years back, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association offered a few tips that I wanted to share today. First, farmers often work alone. They recommend that when cleaning out your grain bins, use a buddy system.
Additionally, especially after a wet harvest, don’t forget to wear a mask. This is going to help make sure you don’t breathe in harmful molds.
Be aware that the grain in the bin might not be as it appears. Crusting can deceive you and lead to dangerous falls, even entrapment.
As an added measure of precaution, I encourage you to touch base with your local first responders. They can seek out training on rescue techniques and specialized equipment.
Finally, I’d add, take the time to educate your kids about safe practices on the farm. Raising our kids on the ranch has been one of the best parenting decisions we’ve made. I’m proud of the work ethic they’ve earned – the commonsense problem solving skills they’ve developed – the understanding they’ve gotten about how our food is grown. But I’m also very much aware of how dangerous it can be.
Farming is risky enough. Please take time this week to evaluate your current grain bin safety procedures. It’s worth the attention.