Grain bin accidents can happen at any time, and county Farm Bureau groups want their local fire department and rescue crews to be equipped to help save farmers who might find themselves in trouble.

About a year and a half ago, Mark Shriver, a volunteer firefighter for the Sutherland Fire Department, was called to respond to a farm accident. A man was moving corn from storage onto a semi. He was using a vac system when the nozzle of the vac began picking up corn beneath the farmer’s feet. He was engulfed in the corn pile.

The farmer was up to his shoulders in corn when the semi driver came back to the storage area to see the man. The driver called the department for help.

Shriver and the rest of his crew, equipped with a grain rescue tube, used their training to assist the farmer.

"We were able to put the sections (of the grain tube) around him and we got oxygen on him right away," Shriver, O’Brien County Farm Bureau president, said. "We got him scooped out from inside that tube, and he came out of there with no injuries. He was very lucky."

Shortly before the accident, the O’Brien County Farm Bureau was able to equip all volunteer fire departments in the county, including the Sutherland department, with grain rescue tubes and training through fund-raising efforts.

Providing equipment

"Grain bin accidents happen, and we wanted to make sure if there was a situation that occurred that we had the ability for our departments to have the equipment and the training to respond to that," said Jay Hofland, past president of the O’Brien County Farm Bureau.

Shriver said it’s helpful that other departments in the county have the same equipment and training.

"When we call for mutual aid, everybody’s familiar with it (the equipment). That helps tremendously," Shriver said.

Derrick Black, president of the Story County Farm Bureau, said his county was able to supply all of the volunteer fire departments in the county with grain rescue tubes.

"We thought that by having the grain rescue equipment it would cut down the response time if each city had at least one," Black said.

The Story County Farm Bureau also purchased a grain auger and drill for every volunteer department in the county. The drill operates the auger, which is used to expedite grain removal from around the person engulfed in grain.

The Farm Bureau worked with the departments to make sure they were trained in using the equipment, he said.

"It adds a sense of safety to farmers to know if by chance they were involved in a grain entrapment situation, they could be rescued as fast as possible," Black said.

Dan Neenan, director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety in Peosta, said this spring could be particularly bad for grain bin accidents. "Last year’s harvest was a bumper crop, but it also was harvested later and it was put away with a high moisture content," he said.

The higher moisture of the grain has the ability to form a crust over the grain. Accidents happen as farmers enter the grain bin to free the crusted grain, he said.

Neenan said there are several key rules when working in grain bins.

Farmers should lock out and tag out the power source to the augers moving grain.

Farmers should conduct air quality sampling to ensure there’s at least 19.5 percent oxygen in the bin.

Everybody going in the bin needs to be harnessed and tied off, Neenan said.

"Probably the rule that’s broken the most is that entering into a confined space is a minimum of a two-person job," Neenan said.

There should be one person entering the bin, and the other should stay out of the bin in constant communication with the person inside, he said. This person can also call for help and direct emergency crews should the need arise.