Participants learn rescue techniques during a demonstration at the 2018 South Central Task Force Homeland Security Conference in Harrisburg. Image: Stephen Brown
A Pennsylvania farmer trapped in a grain bin was rescued by first responders who knew how to save him thanks to training from Penn State Extension.
The incident, which happened in May on a farm in Northumberland County, illustrates the importance of farm-safety training, according to Michael Pate, Nationwide Insurance Associate Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
"This farmer is very fortunate," said Pate, a faculty member in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. "Without the quick thinking and action by rescuers, there could have been a very different outcome. We praise those responders for being proactive by taking training that ultimately saved this man's life."
According to reports from those on the scene, the farmer was loading a truck, noticed the grain was not flowing as it should and entered the bin. A crust had developed on top of the corn, and the void beneath collapsed. He became trapped, with corn continuing to enter the auger. Fortunately, another worker found him and called for help.
Responders included volunteer fire companies from the communities of Klingerstown, Pillow, Gratz and Lykens. David Faust, a firefighter/fire chief with one of those companies, Fisherville Fire Co., said that several responders had participated in farm emergency training provided by Penn State Extension following the recent acquisition of a grain bin rescue tube by neighboring company, Caronsville Fire Co.
Faust said the techniques learned during that training helped make for a successful rescue -- the farmer was extracted from the grain, uninjured.
"There were several responders on scene who said that the training came back to them that day," Faust said. "As a responder and an instructor for the classes, I feel that this training is very important, as these incidents are not common and most rescue techniques that are commonly used may not work in farm-rescue situations."
Preventing these incidents from happening in the first place -- while preparing responders to react appropriately if they do -- is the hallmark of Penn State Extension's agricultural safety and farm emergency training programs. Courses on animal handling, farm emergency rescue, farm equipment and structures, protective gear, and disaster preparedness are offered on-site and online.
Penn State also participates in Safety in Agriculture for Youth, a program that began in 2014 with funding from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This multi-institution, multistate project enhances access to quality youth farm-safety curricula. Thanks to this program, more than 18,000 youth from 46 states, most under 18 years of age, have enrolled in the CareerSafe-Occupational Safety and Health Administration general industry (agriculture) online training, and nearly 9,000 youth have completed it.
"Farmers are at a high risk for serious and life-threatening injuries by the nature of their work," Pate said, pointing to statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which show that every day about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.
"Education is key in moving the needle in favor of farmers' health and safety," Pate said. "Farmers and first responders both play a critical role."
More information on farm safety and rescue training can be found on the Penn State Extension website.