In five seconds, a person working in a grain bin could be engulfed and may not be able to get free.
In less than 60 seconds, the person could be covered up.
It could then take hours to free them. Sometimes, they are found alive. But in some instances, the pressure from the corn or other grain causes the person to suffocate and die.
For the second time, Seymour FFA is planning a training session for local farmers and agribusiness employees who work near grain bins and first responders who could respond to a grain facility or confined space emergency.
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Hazards of Flowing Grain and Confined Space Entry/Rescue, put on by the Safety and Technical Rescue Association, is from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department in Cortland.
With donations from Rose Acre Farms, Wischmeier Trucking Inc., Premier Ag, Kova Farm Supply and Boknecht Trucking Inc., the training is free to the 50 people who sign up. The deadline to register is noon Tuesday.
“While similar to the spring 2014 program, this training will take experiences to the next level,” said Jeanna Eppley, Seymour FFA adviser.
Participants will become familiar with the hazards of confined spaces and flowing grain, allowing them to work safer and prevent grain entrapment while actively participating in a live engulfment and rescue scenario in a controlled environment.
They also become qualified to make a bin entry, be a bin entry attendant and be part of a confined space rescue team. The class has a strong emphasis on prevention and safety.
In the end, participants will receive certification.
The training is being conducted again because of the number of agriculture-related accidents over the years and agriculture/farming being considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, Eppley said.
In 2010, at least 26 people were killed in the United States by grain entrapment — the highest number on record, according to Purdue University. In 2014, 38 grain bin entrapments resulted in 17 deaths, which were the highest numbers since 2010.
Rose Acre Farms, the second-largest egg producer in the United States, had employees participate in the training in 2014 at Seymour High School.
This year, the company jumped on board as a donor in honor of the 30th anniversary of a grain bin accident that killed two men at the facility north of Cortland.
In November 1986, the mill manager, Jeff Wolff, 25, had called Jack Schafstall, 36, chief of the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department, to come and help loosen corn that had become crusted by intense heat from a fire two weeks prior in an adjacent grain dryer.
The two men, both of whom were farmers, went to the top of the 60-foot-tall bin to inspect the corn. The auger, which empties corn from the bin, was on at the time of the accident and was believed to have created a suction that drew the men to the bottom. They both died of asphyxiation.
Firefighters from seven county departments cut holes in the side of the grain bin to empty the corn and bulldozed it out of the way. About 50,000 bushels of corn were in the bin at the time.
That incident is still on the mind of Wolff’s stepbrother, Tony Wesner, who has worked at Rose Acre Farms for 35 years and now serves as its chief operating officer.
“Very, very tragic day. I can remember it as if it was yesterday,” Wesner said.
Both of the men were experienced farmers who were familiar with grain bins, he said.
“I grew up around grain bins all of the time, and so you just don’t even think about it. It just ended up being what you did,” Wesner said. “Sometimes, the opportunity to get hurt, it doesn’t even cross your mind because you’re so used to it, you grew up around it.”
Recently reading about grain bin accidents in Kentucky and Fort Wayne, Wesner realizes working around them still can be dangerous.
“There’s a lot of danger in farming, a lot of chance for accidents,” he said. “Every year, farm workers and farm kids get hurt. It has declined over the years, but it’s still pretty prevalent. It’s still too much. It’s too high. We have a lot of grain bins and a lot of opportunities for accidents, so we have to be diligent in talking about it all of the time. Whatever you talk about and focus on, you get better at.”
Wesner said about 100 Rose Acre Farms employees work around grain bins. Those workers take confined space training, but some of them will attend the upcoming training to get additional education and a certification.
“It’s not any kind of training like this,” Wesner said, comparing the two types of training. “This is very intense, very advanced and uses different tools and equipment.”
With the harvest season coming up, Wesner said this is the perfect time of year to do the training.
“There are just people who get hurt every year on the farm in the fall, and in the spring, farmers are in a hurry, and they feel like they’ve got to make sure they get as much done as they can when the weather is right,” he said.
“We care about our farm community, and Rose Acre’s success hinges on our local farmers being successful,” he said. “When they are not, we are not, so that’s why we’re doing this. It’s not to talk about bad things that have happened and tragedies. It’s to talk about it a little bit enough to maybe prevent someone else from getting hurt.”
Wesner said he would like to see the training become a periodic occurrence.
“Maybe it makes one person think before they get down in a bin, ‘Is this smart? Do I have help? Do I have the right harness and restraints on? And am I doing this the way I should?'” he said. “Life is very precious, and it can be gone in the twinkling of an eye.”
What: Hazards of Flowing Grain and Confined Space Entry/Rescue training session
When: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 10
Where: Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department, 6905 N. County Road 400E, Cortland
Who: The Safety and Technical Rescue Association is conducting the training targeted for farmers, first responders and agribusiness employees; 50 spots are available
Cost: Free; lunch, beverages, refreshments and some training material will be provided
Program information: Visit satrapros.com/training/fire-rescue and click to download the eight-hour Hazards of Flowing Grain and Confined Space Entry/Rescue PDF