An independent film company is working on a feature-length film about a grain engulfment that took place in 2010 in Mount Carroll Illinois. Wyatt Whitebread, 14, and Alex Pacas, 19, died after becoming engulfed in a corn bin while on the job. A third victim Will Piper, 20, was rescued. The case led to major changes in regulations for bin entry and teenage employees in the grain industry. I was able to hear Annette Pacas, Alex’s mom, speak at a conference a few years ago. Her presentation made a huge impression on me about how preventable these kinds of tragedies are and how much work is needed to improve safety in ag.
The film team has produced a 10 minute version of the film to promote the production of the feature length film. You can view the short version here. University of Kentucky’s Southeast Center for Agricultural Safety and Injury Prevention is also developing a study guide to go with the feature length film aimed at highschool level ag classes and FFA programs.
A father and son were killed yesterday after being engulfed in silage at a farm in Barron, Wisconsin. The announcement didn’t provide much detail on what happened, but it sounds like either a collapse of material stuck to the side of the silo or that there was a shell of material that collapsed underneath.
While silage engulfments are less common than grain engulfments, they can occur under the right conditions. The combination of silage with a higher moisture content and colder weather can sometimes cause partial freezing which can cause the silage to form crusts like a grain bin does. The high narrow structure of a silo also makes it more difficult to install harnesses.
Due to this and more common silo hazards like mold, silo gas, electrocution hazards, and fall hazards, many farmers have been opting to switch to horizontal silos such as silo bags and trench silos. These systems aren’t without issues (finding the right location to put it can be tough and you have to be more careful about moisture accumulating in the bottom) but with a little extra planning they can be a good option both in terms of safety and in terms of reduced maintenance.
It looks like a lot of my readers in the Midwest are going to be experiencing heavy snow today and tomorrow. As always, when there is a lot of snow, it’s a good idea to take extra precautions when working outside and driving. I put together a set of articles about winter weather safety on the farm when we had that nasty snowstorm back in February. Too see them you can either click on “winter” in the categories menu on the right side of your screen or you can check out my posts on winter weather safety here. Stay safe out there!
AgrAbility is a program run by Purdue University that provides solutions to help disabled farmers and older farmers to keep farming. They’ve come up with tools and training to help with accessibility and to help make tasks easier. State-level programs are available in 26 states and are staffed by experts who can help individual farmers figure out which solutions work best for them. Many of the solutions in their toolbox are DIY. They also have a resource page for veterans and beginning farmers. Click here to check out their website
Here is part 2 of the respiratory protection video series. This one is about getting the right fit when you use respiratory protection. For cartridge masks in particular, it can be tricky to find one that fits your face correctly. You may need to try several brands to find a style and size that makes a good seal!
Here is the first of a 3 part video series on respiratory protection to go with today’s ag safety awareness week theme. It explains the different types of mask to use for different jobs. Depending on what you’re working with, those paper dust masks might provide little or no protection!
While I was looking in to farm hearing loss, I found this article by the South Dakota Extension’s research division on making your tractor quieter. The article gives detailed instructions for several ways to reduce noise exposure from tractors. Click here to see the article.
To go with today’s agricultural safety awareness week theme, here is a video introducing noise hazards. Hearing loss is the most common occupational illness in agriculture, with 78% of farmers experiencing some amount of hearing loss (source). Even though I haven’t worked on the farm regularly since I started college, I have slight hearing loss from farm work. A lot of us dismiss hearing loss as not being a big deal, but it can have a big effect on your day to day life. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, can greatly reduce quality of life, and there isn’t much doctors can do about it if it is caused by noise exposure. The best way to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus is to reduce your exposure to noise, either by making noise sources quieter or by wearing hearing protection.
The Agricultural Safety Awareness Program (ASAP) is a national organization promoting agricultural safety and health. This week (March 4th-10th) is their agricultural safety awareness week. As part of safety awareness week, Wisconsin State Farmer is having a social media event called “No One Can Take Your Place”. Each day they will cover a topic in ag safety and health on their social media accounts( click here to see their Facebook page) The themes for each day are: