Farm safety

Each year, MU Extension safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch teaches young people about the dangers of farm grain bins and common household poisons. (Photo by Linda Geist)

University of Missouri Extension rural safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch said National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 15-21, is a good time to review precautions for grain bins with farmworkers and family members.

This year’s theme, “Shift Farm Safety Into High Gear,” reminds us to remain vigilant at all times when working on or visiting farms, Funkenbusch says.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recorded a record number of fatal grain bin entrapments in 2012. Since then, entrapments have steadily decreased. Funkenbusch credits this to the work of numerous agricultural groups and safety demonstrations such as those sponsored by MU and Missouri AgrAbility each year at the Missouri State Fair.

But grain bins are still among the biggest dangers on farms. It takes only five seconds for flowing grain to suck someone in, and less than 20 seconds for complete entrapment, Funkenbusch says. It takes even less time for children.

It takes more than 325 pounds of force to raise a 165-pound mannequin covered in corn, she says.

Before harvest, Funkenbusch suggests the following:

• Sit down with employees and family members. Identify and assign tasks and locate equipment.

• Decide how you will communicate with one another.

• Develop and communicate an emergency action plan.

• Avoid entry. Use masks, harnesses and other equipment when entering bins. Never go alone. “Farmers put themselves at grave risk when they work alone, especially when working around grain bins,” Funkenbusch says.

• Turn off and lock out energy sources.

• Do not “walk down” grain to make it flow, and never enter on or below bridged grain.

• Check rescue equipment.

For more information, see the MU Extension news release “Grain bin safety costs a little, saves a lot” at extension.missouri.edu/n/1990.