Grain entrapment rescue skills could prove critical

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association brought a grain entrapment demonstration to Ag Days to show how quickly a person can become entrapped in grain. Here, specialist Glen Blahey explains how to rescue a person by building a coffer dam. | Ed white photo

BRANDON — Grain bins kill.

So knowing how to get in and out of them safely is essential for every farmer.

Knowing how to save a trapped farmer is essential for every rescue crew.

That’s why the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association brought a “mobile grain entrapment demonstration unit” from Iowa for Manitoba Ag Days and FarmTech.

“The (CASA) is currently having one built and we hope to have it on the road by early April,” said Glen Blahey, a safety specialist with CASA.

The unit at the western Canadian farm shows this winter is stationed at the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety in Peosta, Iowa.

Blahey said it was essential to get the grain bin safety message out to farmers and rural people as soon as possible and CASA plans to reach as many people as it can with its custom built machine when it comes.

During a demonstration at Ag Days, a small crowd gathered to see Blahey and rural rescue worker Garth McIntyre of Glenboro rescue a mannequin from the grain bin atop the demonstration machine, and to hear Don Neenan of the Iowa centre talk about grain bin safety and rescue.

Neenan showed farmers how to lock-out and tag-out the power to the auger, which is necessary before anybody enters a grain bin.

He told them to never enter a grain bin with no one watching, instructed them to measure the air quality inside the bin in case of carbon monoxide, and to be prepared in case somebody gets stuck.

A farmer’s body can become immersed up to the belly button within 15 seconds inside a bin, especially if someone turns on the auger.

That’s what happened with the demonstration farmer-dummy standing in the grain. It sank in about eight seconds.

Then Blahey and McIntyre went into action.

They built a “coffer dam” with four 27-pound curved metal pieces. They built the dam, then used a drill-powered auger to pump out some of the grain surrounding the dummy, and gradually freed it.

In a real situation, it might take hours, but here it took only a few minutes.

Neenan said rescuers must understand other problems that can be caused by grain entrapment.

A few minutes after being freed, the formerly trapped person can experience severe problems due to compression damage. They need to be on the way to the hospital immediately after escaping the bin.

Many farmers and rural rescue workers know little about grain entrapment but CASA hopes these demonstrations and its new travelling unit will help spread education into farm country, prevent injuries and save lives.

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