First responders and farming: Focus on Safety

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For many area dairy farmers and dry grain producers, the harvest season is under way and will continue well into fall. Months of anticipation — and worry — over having a successful crop will give way to an intensive effort to harvest, haul and off-load a prized crop to its final destination: The grain storage bin.

Whether housed on-farm and incorporated into daily ration mixes or stored long-term at a local feed mill, the fruits of many farmers’ labors sit in storage waiting to be called on to feed livestock. Grain storage bins of varying sizes are not a new addition to our rural landscape, and they continue to pop up all over.

Larger dairy operations have found it more economical to raise, dry and store livestock grains on-site while others have transitioned out of dairy yet retain the tillable ground to grow and sell grains commercially.

From a functionality standpoint, grain bins serve a straight-forward purpose. They store grain until needed and have the mechanisms in place to unload the grain when it is time to transport it. To the unsuspecting individual, it appears that potential risks for accidents involving grain bins would be minimal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Grain bins, along with other agricultural related storage facilities, fall under a classification of confined spaces. According to the New York State Department of Health website, an average of 100 confined space related deaths occur each year in workplaces in the United States.

Accidents that happen in confined spaces are often fatal. The main cause of the fatalities is workers entering oxygen deficient or toxic atmospheres; and more than 60% of the documented deaths occur among would-be rescuers.

The concern with entering grain bins is that an individual can quickly succumb to the immense pressure of being surrounded by tons of dried corn. Grain bins also contain moving parts that pose a risk to those in charge of routine inspection and maintenance. While proper procedures for Lock Out, Tag Out safety protocols exist in many ag industry work places, protocol drift and complacency also exist, leading to unfortunate circumstances and the potential for injuries or death.

In response to our changing agricultural sector here in Central New York, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County has teamed up with Goldstar Feed and Grain, LLC, to offer the “First on Scene: Grain Bin Safety Training.” This free hands-on training opportunity is open to all first responders and the entire farming community. This event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Goldstar Feed and Grain, 7598 Route 20 in Sangerfield. Registration is required by Monday, Nov. 1, and can be placed by visiting the registration link: https://reg.cce.cornell.edu/GrainBinSafety_230.

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