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  • Writer's pictureDerek Carroll

OSHA Still Matters to Farmers, Grinnell Farm Safety Academy 2016

I recently had the opportunity of attending Grinnell Mutual's Farm Safety Academy on August 31st & September 1st in Grinnell, IA where several topics of farm safety were covered by industry experts and senior Loss Control Specialists at Grinnell Mutual.

I was excited to attend the event due to my enjoyment for agriculture. My grandparents owned a farm in Coleta, IL when I was young and I looked forward to spring and fall every year. It was always exciting to ride in the tractor with my grandpa and to pull the lever that turned the auger on in the combine with my grandma. As a young boy my grandparents and parents always preached to be careful and keep your eyes open. It is amazing that while my farm knowledge is very minimal compared to many of our insureds how that same message is still true, even with all the changes in farming.

The academy opened with a great presentation on grain bin safety by Dave Newcomb from the Illinois Fire Service Institute. According to Dave it can take up to 1,500 lbs of pressure to pull a person entrapped in corn to safety. Due to the pressure the corn creates simply pulling an individual out is not an option, and if you were to pull them out the individual could suffer injuries to their bones and joints.

The statistic that stood out to me the most was the 6 out of 10 grain bin rescues are not successful. To demonstrate how quickly someone can become engulfed Dave had a miniature bin (not the one pictured) that when corn was removed similar to a real bin, a figuring on top quickly sunk. Dave also demonstrated "bridging" with a balloon that really caught my attention. Bridging is when the corn may form a bridge that prevents it from funneling to the bottom. So rather than having athe corn in a funnel shape (or "v" shape), the corn in the bin would have a cone shape (point up). When an individual walks on the bridge it can suddenly collapse, and there is no time to escape the avalanche of corn.

One part of the presentation that was most interesting is when Dave showed how to use panels that fit together commonly called grain bin rescue tubes to

help stop corn from surrounding an individual and then use devices to remove the corn. He had an auger that was powered by a drill to remove the corn once the panels are in place to help free the trapped person.

To help prevent entrapments Dave recommends never entering the bin alone and only if necessary and using harnesses with pulleys that help you stay above the corn. He is also very happy that grain bin manufacturers have started putting anchor points in grain bins to assist in entrapment rescues.

In the afternoon we heard a presentation by Marsha Salzwedel from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. She spoke on several issues with children on the farm especially when children bring friends to the farm that are not as familiar with the issues on the farm along with the topic of employing children on farms. Farmers need to make sure that visitors know the dangers of the farm machinery and livestock. While farmers are familiar with them, their guests may not be.

One of the many things that stood out in this presentation is when she discussed that while farmers are often exempt from OSHA, and OSHA inspecting their farms if they have less than 10 people working there, in the event of an accident they will still be held to the same standards that OSHA has, as OSHA is considered best practices. While OSHA might not bother you now, you maybe held accountable later. It is the farmers job to make sure that their employees have a safe work place.

We had many other great presentations on Anhydrous Ammonia, LP Gas, and a panel discussion from a Mutual Manager, agent, and a farm owner about different things they have done to help combat safety losses. Jim Heishman had a fantastic story during the panel discussion that was truly captivating about a grain bin entrapment at his farm. One of his safety tips included taking the key out of any tractor, semi, or truck that is being worked on to help prevent accidents from sticking fingers around moving parts. It doesn't matter how big or small the job, the key gets taken out at his farm and put in your pocket. Great tip!

I would be a lie if I didn't admit that my attention wasn't drawn to the burn cell demonstration. I knew that Grinnell Mutual did them and had even seen a few videos of them at Farm Academy I attended prior. This time they did two different burn cells. The first was a mock up of a garage shop that had been set up to mimic someone doing wood staining (appropriate since Kayla and I just did some in our garage). There was a work bench, paint thinner, storage racks, saw horses with a door on top, excess stain and typical garage items in the burn cell (it looked like a real shop). It was amazing how quickly it went from a shop:

To this:

I believe it was only 2-3 minutes to reach this point.

The second burn cell was designed to replicate the walls that are often found in hog confinements and related back to an earlier topic that was discussed. The mutual manager in the panel discussion discussed how quickly one of their insured's hog confinements burned to the ground due to the type of construction materials used, specifically the wall material. The wall material that was in this hog confinement was called HDPE and burns incredibly quickly.

HDPE was on half of the burn cell and Class A fire resistance material was on the other. A small bag of paper cups was put in each corner and lit on fire. It was amazing that the Class A material did not burn much at all and eventually the fire burned out, while the HDPE side was quickly burning and eventually even burnt the Class A material. Here is a video to a previous burn of HDPE:

And Class A:

It is crazy to see the difference!

This academy was a great and many thanks go out to Grinnell Mutual for hosting such an outstanding event. As an insurance agent the takeaways are being able to identify risks that some insureds may not realize they have. Over the course of two days you hear many statistics and stories about safety and being able to take that message back to the office and share with friends and clients is what helps make our live's safer and better serve our clients risks.

Looking back at my time spent on my grandparent's farm I am incredibly grateful that they taught me many things about farm safety, I know that today's farmers are doing the exact same thing with their friends and families. It is great to have a company like Grinnell Mutual that is willing to invest in educating farmers and insurance agents as well. It is everyone's job to make sure safe farming practices are taking place.

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