Grain bin safety demonstration gives farmers a reality check

Extricating a person from a grain bin takes up to 900 pounds of force and must be done properly to prevent permanent physical damage

LANGHAM, Sask. — An enormous pulling force is required to extract a person buried in grain.

The damage inflicted on the human body by well-intentioned but untrained rescuers can be crippling or worse.

That was the message conveyed recently to farmers at the Ag in Motion farm show via a new interactive demo, hosted by Kendra Ulmer, nurse with the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture.

“A lot of people are skeptical about how tightly grain can trap you. They just don’t believe it. They’ll put their hand straight into a bucket of grain and pull it back out and shrug it off. They’ll say there wasn’t much restriction or force. But grain is deceptive,” Ulmer said to the folks at the Saskatoon area farm show held July 18-20.

She said the demo gives farmers a chance to see first-hand the impact being trapped in grain has on the human body.

The weigh scale shows how much force grain exerts when attempts are made to try to pull a person out of a grain pile.

To begin the demo, Ulmer buries a five-pound mannequin leg in eight inches of grain. The leg has one cable attached at the ankle and another cable attached at the knee. The cables are connected to a weigh scale. Then she starts lifting the scale and the leg.

“It takes about 35 pounds of force before we start seeing the leg move in the grain. Farmers recognize that if there’s grain just up to the knee on one leg, it’s like a 35 lb. weight on that leg. You may not have the body strength to get out of the situation.”

Then the question arises of what stable item exists in the grain bin that enables somebody to pull or push against to exert that 35 lb. of lift. The frightening answer is that all you have is more grain. Struggling with your arms to extract your leg, may bury you deeper.

Thirty-five pounds of lift doesn’t seem like much, but when Ulmer has farmers come out of the audience to raise the scale and lift the leg all the way out of the grain, it’s an eye opener. It quickly sinks in that extricating a whole person safely becomes a major challenge.

“If you’re in up to your waist, it takes about 600 lb. to pull out the average 175 lb. person. If you’re in up to your shoulders or chin, then you need 800 to 900 lb. of force to pull the person out.

“There will be great physical injury to the person if the operation isn’t performed by trained rescuers using equipment designed for grain bin rescue.”

Ulmer says the tabletop leg demo is part of the grain rescue demonstration trailer created by their partner, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.

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