Case study: Anhydrous spill in Northern Illinois

A large-scale anhydrous leak happened in Illinois a few days ago, so I thought I’d use it as a case study. The information available in the original article is pretty limited, but even so I can see a few areas where prevention and response strategies could have been improved, as well as a few areas where people were taking precautions and responding appropriately.

Here is a quick summary of what happened:

-A farmer was pulling anhydrous with a tractor around 4:30 AM. As he drove down the road, a hose sprang a leak

-When firefighters responded, they thought it was just a car fire and weren’t wearing protective equipment or take precautions against chemical exposure initially

-as this was happening, people were driving through the gas and were having difficulty breathing. One driver even went off the road

-the area was heavily populated so people in their homes were also exposed

-In total over 40 people were taken to the hospital by ambulance, and many more drove themselves in.

Some things that went right:

-The driver of the tractor didn’t try to deal with the leak himself, and got out before he was seriously exposed.

-The driver of the tractor was moving anhydrous very early in the morning. Moving equipment, especially something as dangerous as anhydrous, during off-peak hours helps reduce the risk of crashes and the risk of people being exposed to the anhydrous in the event of a leak. This is especially important for heavily populated areas like where this leak happened.


-Someone called the fire department right away. No one tried to stop the leak on their own.

-Once the fire department figured out what was going on, they shut down roads, ordered residents within a 1 mile radius to stay indoors, performed evacuations, and performed wellness checks. In other words, once they figured out what they were dealing with, they took proper precautions to minimize people being exposed.

Some things that could have been improved:

-The fire department didn’t realize this was an anhydrous leak initially. The fire department should have known to look out for anhydrous if they get a call involving farm vehicles this time of year. Getting firefighters into the proper protective equipment right away would have prevented the most serious exposures, and getting the road closed and people inside earlier in the process would have considerably reduced the total number of people exposed.

-Drivers also didn’t realize this was an anhydrous leak and drove into the gas cloud, and at least one driver was going too fast to stop in time to avoid driving into the gas. So many on-road incidents happen because the drivers of passenger vehicles don’t know how to adjust their driving around ag vehicles or what the hazards might be. I’ve already seen a slew of public service announcements for drivers in the aftermath of this incident, but I wish there was more driver training and more drivers getting pulled over and ticketed for illegally passing ag vehicles.

-One thing I’d want to check is if the anhydrous equipment was being inspected regularly and properly, especially since we’re at the beginning of the season. Inspections won’t catch everything, but they go a long way towards preventing leaks.

All in all, it sounds like everyone who was involved is going to be OK, which is impressive considering the size of the leak and that it happened in a busy neighborhood. Still, if firefighters and drivers were more aware of the potential hazards and had been able to start responding to the situation correctly more quickly, the number and severity of exposures could have been dramatically reduced.

Here is a link to the original article:

https://www.kenoshanews.com/news/local/anhydrous-ammonia-causes-massive-hazmat-response-in-illinois-hospitalized/article_e64a7017-6730-58d2-b42c-742c6c6a0727.html?fbclid=IwAR1tdthlBf8Orzm_I7fILBart1857x8WbsAN5eSaoxyc7UnoavXhZrFDTjk

Common types of on-road collisions and how to prevent them

Here is a great article from the National Ag Safety Database that summarizes the most common scenarios for on-road collisions between farm equipment and passenger vehicles and ways to avoid them. Most of the advice in the article is for the drivers of passenger vehicles, so I’d like to add a few quick tips for farmers:

  • at the beginning of the season, make sure all slow moving vehicle signs and turn signals are in good working order.
  • Consider adding additional lights/signage to make your vehicle more visible. For implements that might stick out near the center line, adding reflective tape or magnetic flashing lights can help drivers see where the edge of the equipment is
  • Be especially cautious driving after dark or near sunrise/sunset
  • Keep field entrances clear of trees and vegetation as much as possible. This helps make it easier for you to see other vehicles and for them to see you when you are pulling out on to the road
  • Try to avoid busy roads and peak travel times as much as possible.

Click on the link below to see the article by NASD

http://nasdonline.org/933/d000774/safety-on-iowa-roads.html?fbclid=IwAR37C1qcY3JDY9-oogP3asYc0pOEnwQofIOA-fxKHWH006azKwhX6GwPlVE

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Video: Planting season road and kids safety

Found a video of an interview on the PAFSafetyDays chanel of a news interview that goes over planting safety. This video mostly covers road safety and kids safety. I remember being taught when I was little and taking food and water out to the field to not go near a tractor or piece of equipment until it was off and until the driver saw me and called me over. To this day I haven’t had a close call involving someone not seeing me while equipment is running so in my case at least it was effective training. Not all kids listen that well though, so keeping close supervision until kids are old enough hand have demonstrated themselves to be responsible enough to not break the rules when someone isn’t watching is essential. As for road safety, I’d like to add that making sure your slow moving vehicle signs and lights are in good order is an important step to take before planting starts. I have a lot of classmates who do driving research and time and time again they find that better signage, brighter lights, and more obvious turn signals reduce the chance of getting hit substantially at any time of day.

Road safety

With planting season around the corner, it’s a good time for farmers and other drivers to review some tips on road safety. One of the best things you can do to prepare for a safe planting season is to check that all of your lights and signals are working, and to replace any slow moving vehicle signs that are getting faded. I know a number of people who study rural driving safety, and they tell me that signs, lights, and signals make a huge difference in preventing collisions. The article below by Farm Bureau Financial Services provides a good summary of things to look for as you’re getting ready for spring.

https://www.fbfs.com/learning-center/road-safety-with-farm-equipment?fbclid=IwAR0vGvjGpoaqJxy3KB-W7e6fuG6v-I8Yr9SjYNP-5El09h5eqzO20siK7Rs

If you find that you need some new signs, check out these ones from Road Traffic Signs .com:

https://www.roadtrafficsigns.com/Slow-Vehicle/Slow-Moving-Vehicle-ASAE-S276/SKU-K-7590?engine=googlebase&keyword=Slow+Moving+Signs&skuid=K-7590-SFT-14-M1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkobwhvrw4AIVkLfACh1X_ArMEAQYASABEgK_GfD_BwE

Slow Moving Vehicle, Fluorescent Steel Sign, 16"x14"

Hauling horses (or whatever else) in winter

Here is an article from Equisearch with some tips on transporting horses during the winter.  These tips are great for transporting other animals too, and for hauling trailers during the winter.  In icy conditions, it’s especially important to make sure that you’re visible to other vehicles. Make sure that all of your light are working and that decals and slow moving vehicle signs are in good shape.  Icy roads also make it more difficult to get moving and to stop. Make sure your tires and brakes are in top shape, and carry tire chains just in case.  Finally, make sure that human and animal passengers have enough food, water, and insulation to handle a breakdown.

Click here to see the full article

Invest in quality tires for your entire rig. Check tire pressure before every trip; comply with the manufacturer. Photo by CLIXPHOTO.CAInvest in quality tires for your entire rig. Check tire pressure before every trip; comply with the manufacturer. Photo by CLIXPHOTO.CAImage result for horse safety winter

Video: Spring Road Safety

With planting season coming up , I thought I’d share this video from Ag PhD’s Farm Basics series about spring road safety.  While road safety is important all year long, long hours and big equipment during planting season presents unique challenges.  The video lists some great strategies for farmers and for non-farmers to avoid collisions during planting season.  One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the video  is to make sure that your slow moving vehicle signs are in good condition as part of your planting preparations.