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North Dakota Ag News Headlines
Grain Bin Rescue Equipment and Training Opportunities Available for Fire Departments
North Dakota Ag Connection - 02/22/2024

February is grain bin safety month. North Dakota is no exception when it comes to grain bin entrapments and engulfments. In 2020, North Dakota ranked second in the nation for recorded grain-bin-related entrapments in the Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities report from Purdue University. That does not account for any undocumented grain bin related injuries and fatalities.

Research estimates that 30% of confined spaces incidences, including grain bin entrapments, are unreported or undocumented. Farms and ranches employing fewer than 11 non-family employees are not covered by federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) injury reporting requirements, meaning many farm and ranch injuries are not reported.

“The best strategy for preventing grain bin engulfments and entrapments is to ensure the grain is in good condition in the bin,” says Angie Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension farm and ranch safety coordinator. “Grain that is in good condition should not bridge, crust or chunk, which eliminates any need to enter the grain bin in the first place.”

Monitoring and addressing grain moisture issues throughout the season can prevent unloading challenges that might tempt individuals to use dangerous intervention strategies, such as entering the grain bin to try to break apart the crusts or chunks to get the grain flowing into the auger or sump.

“If grain does lose quality and begins to crust, chunk or bridge, a zero entry mindset is the best way to keep producers and their workers safe from entrapment situations,” says Johnson. “However, we know that many factors may lead an individual to enter a grain bin, making the need for intervention tools, trainings and rescue techniques a harsh reality.”

Johnson suggests volunteer fire departments discuss equipment needs and training opportunities for responding to a grain bin rescue. Training is critical to prepare responders with the knowledge and skills to use equipment in a rescue situation. Fire departments can work with a local grain elevator and the North Dakota Firefighters Association or the Minnesota Safety and Security Consultation Specialists to set up a grain bin extrication and rescue training event. Neighboring fire departments can coordinate to ensure they are able to work together on a rescue. It takes a large team to respond to an incident, adds Johnson.

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