SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Farming is one of the most dangerous jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
From operating heavy machinery to working around grain bins, the risks can be high.
Pete Hansen expected March 6, 2020, to be like any other day on the farm. But his task of cleaning out grain bins quickly turned into a fight for his life.
“So I got up there on top and as the grain was going down real slow in the center, I could hit that caked stuff that started to poke out of the top, I could hit that with a shovel break it up and throw it off to the side, where it was going down and going with the rest of the grain,” Hansen said. “But then all at once it started to go and I think that first sump out unplugged and like I say that’s right where I was standing about, so things changed real quick.”
Hansen found himself getting sucked into the grain. Luckily, he wasn’t alone.
“My brother was in the bin with me and he was over by the door so when I yelled you know I can’t get out, well then of course he started hollering at the guys that were outside running the augers…” Hansen said. “It only took just a minute or so from me being up in my ankles in grain to where I was up to my neck
It’s a scenario many rescue crews now train for.
“They called for help and of course, different fire departments in the area showed up and they cut holes in the bin and drained it down and got me out,” Hansen said.
“When we arrive on scene again you know you are trying to just take it step by step,” Trevor Lightfield, Captain of the Pierre Rescue Squad said. “You know, what other agencies are arriving with you, and just focusing on your patient and the condition that they are in and then all the other different elements around it and making sure that you are just taking it step by step and try to get it done in a timely manner.”
Agtegra plays a key role in making sure rescue squads across the state are prepared to handle grain bin situations, through hands-on training with a grain bin simulator.
“We are going to have somebody stand up on top and then we will turn the pit on underneath and it will take them down to the grates so they can’t get hurt and then we will have the fire department come in with the rescue tubes to put around them, excavate them out of there, get them out safely,” Bill Timm, grain manager at Agtegra in Wolsey said. “It’s just a perfect live video of what happens with grain.
“It’s great to have hands on experience that way you’re prepared when you have a situation like that,” Lightfield said.
It’s not only important for rescue crews to be prepared for these situations, but as a farmer it’s important to take proper precautions before entering the bin.
“If there is bridged grain or grain built up on the side it could collapse and engulf you in it, or you’ve got to make sure you test the air so that it’s all good, has enough oxygen, if you have bad grain you’ll have too much carbon monoxide or other poisons in there that if you don’t get enough oxygen you’ll end up passing out, make sure you test the air all the time before you go in and while you are in,” Timm said.
It’s important to have a safety plan because you can get sucked in in just a matter of seconds.
“A good thing for farmers is whenever you are going to enter a grain bin, make sure that you know the conditions inside, know that if it’s crusting or not, know if it’s safe conditions, always have at least another person with you, have a harness, have a rope system, that way if you do get in trouble you’re able to be freed from the grain bin, but never do it alone,” Lightfield said.
“You need to have people around, I think that’s the big thing, and people that know where the shut off are and how to run everything, because when it happens, it can happen real quick, I mean it’s amazing how fast you can go down and then once you’re in there, you’re just like in concrete you aint going no further but you’re not coming out either,” Hansen said.
A scary situation that can happen to any farmer.
“All I can say is you think it can’t happen to me, well unfortunately, maybe you’re smarter than I am, it can happen,” Hansen said.
Purdue University reports that last year there were 29-grain entrapments across the United States. Eleven of those were fatal.
You can see their full report of injuries and fatalities due to agriculture confined spaces in this story here.