17 July 2010 - Caution Saves Lives

Normally I deliver two sermons on Farm Safety every year, one in the spring at planting time, the other in the fall at harvest time; two very dangerous times on farms and ranches.

This year I feel compelled to deliver another safety sermon and here is why: Every week I receive the County Line newspaper from Ontario, Wisconsin, my home town. The most recent issue had a front page headline that grabbed my attention immediately, ‘Seven-Year-Old Boy Killed in Farm Accident’. Reading the tragic story. . . he was trapped in a feed bin and suffocated. That reminded me of a similar farm accident that occurred back in the 80’s in Iowa when an 11-year-old boy was trapped in a grain bin and suffocated. That was the son of Marilyn Adams who turned that tragedy into something positive when she created Farm Safety 4 Just Kids.

While tractor rollovers continue to be the #1 killer of farmers, entrapment in grain and feed bins is on the increase. Steve Wettshurack is a firefighter, a farmer and a farm accident rescue instructor for Purdue University and he recently held a seminar to help emergency responders know how to deal with entrapment. Some of the statistics he shared at that gathering are worrisome. He pointed out there have been 800 grain entrapment cases recorded since 1964. 55% of the entrapments were fatal. It’s not surprising that the Midwest leads in the number of entrapments in grain bins and feed bins; Indiana reported 124 over that period; followed by Iowa with 104, then Minnesota with 61, and Wisconsin and Illinois, each reporting 41. This is not surprising because that’s the heart of grain production in the U.S.

The official word for this type of farm accident is entrapment and it doesn’t just happen in grain or feed bins; we have seen the tragic deaths occur in silos, farmers buried under frozen silage. Manure lagoons and storage containers are especially dangerous because of the deadly gas that can render a person unconscious in seconds.

Each farmstead needs to make some firm rules and follow them. Never let a person enter a grain bin, silo, feed bin or manure container alone. Enforce the buddy system to make sure someone is always there on the outside. The last headline I want to see in anybody’s hometown newspaper is a 7-year old dying in that kind of a farm accident. Be careful out there! End of my summer Farm Safety Sermon.

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