Written by Kaitlyn Kerr, 2014 Indiana Outreach Coordinator
As county and state fairs wind down for the summer, kids are packing their new backpacks up, as they get ready to start another year of school. School time means one thing for farmers and their families; harvest season is right around the corner. It’s one of the many times during the year that keeps farmers and their families busy from dawn to dusk.
Harvest season not only brings in millions of bushels of grains throughout the United States but it also brings tragedy and heartache for some farming families and their communities. The nonprofit organization, Farm Safety For Just Kids, was created due to an incident involving flowing grain. In 1987, Marilyn Adams founded the organization after the death of her 11-year old son, Keith Algreen, in a gravity flow wagon incident. Through this unthinkable tragedy, Farm Safety For Just Kids’ mission is to promote a safe farm environment to prevent health hazards, injuries, and fatalities to children and youth.
As Indiana’s Farm Safety For Just Kids Outreach Coordinator, I’ve experienced first hand what it’s like to lose a loved one due to a grain entrapment. In the fall of 2010 I lost my 13-year-old younger brother to a grain incident. Being apart of a farming family and a devoted 4-H member I never thought something like this could happen to my family or any family in my community. At the time I never realized how dangerous and unpredictable grain can be for children and adults until I was educated on the subject. I’ve learned that no matter how many times you’ve done something, like being around a moving PTO, driving a tractor, or handling grain, you are still at risk of injury or fatality if you aren’t educated on the matter. Here are some key points to remember when you start harvest season:
- Grain handling entrapments happen very quickly. Flowing grain can draw in a person within seconds. Children are at a higher risk of entrapment because they are shorter which allows for them to be submerged in grain quicker than adults. Children also don’t have the strength to pull themselves out of grain before they become entangled.
- Grain acts like fluid. When a single kernel is removed from the bottom of a gravity wagon the grain above it rushes to fill the void thus creating a fluid motion.
- Grain traps people just like quicksand does. Grain may look like it is solid, but it isn’t.
- Suffocation occurs when someone is entrapped in grain. The pressure from the grain can restrict a person’s ability to breath thus filling any voids that are created when the person is trying to escape. The grain will quickly fill the voids therefore creating the person with less room to expand their chest cavity which results in suffocation.
Here are a few things you can do to keep you and your family safe around grain this fall.
- Apply suffocation decals on gravity wagons, grain bins, and any other grain storage structures found on your farm.
- Lock access doors to grain bins so that children and youth aren’t getting into grain storage structures.
- Educate children, youth, and adults about handling grain and the potential suffocation hazards that could occur.
- Make sure to always have an extra person with you when you are handling grain.