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Monday, September 16, 2013

An Open Letter to Farm Wives


Ladies, first of all congratulations for being part of the best occupation in the world. Your contribution in feeding, clothing, and fueling the world is an integral part of agriculture.  And today’s industry would not be as successful as it is without you.

But the key role you play on the farm will keep it going from generation to generation, and you certainly don’t want to see that transition occur either in an unplanned way or earlier than your family wants it.  That is why it is critical for you to remind the men in your family that this is National Farm Safety and Health Week. “And by the way, it will be observed every week on this farm!”

Their response might be to “blow off” your concern. But you are in the position to dress them down and say “listen here!”  And there is one key reason for you to be concerned this year that does not happen every year.

If you remember 2009 when the men on the farm fussed with a late wet harvest that went into November.  Corn was put in the bin wetter than it should have been and much of it did not get properly dried.  In the following spring of 2010 when grain bins were unloaded, the bins were saturated with moisture and mold and news headlines were equally saturated with death and tragedy as dozens of farmers were engulfed in grain trying to unload those bins.

Ask their widows about that. You will hear tales of anguish about how husbands and sons went into the bin alone, apparently to help improve the grain flow to the auger.  They were pulled under the surface of the grain and suffocated. Others were found buried under tons of spoiled grain that had given way when they tried to knock it off the bin walls above them.

The spring of 2014 will be a lot like that spring of 2010.  With the late maturing crop this year, many farmers have already been harvesting at moisture levels nearly twice that required for good storage practices.  And if that 30% moisture corn does not get properly dried to 15% moisture, the warm weather next spring will foster the growth of mold in that moist atmosphere in grain bins and the corn will not cooperate when it is time to be delivered to the elevator or processor.

The men in the family will climb into the bin, just to poke around a bit, and without anyone else around there will be no opportunity to save them.  Emergency crews will come to your farm, cut the sides of the bin open, let the corn run out, and then call the coroner.  It has happened too many times before.  It does not need to happen again.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict rules to prevent that occurring at the grain elevator, but those rules do not apply to farms.    

Those rules prohibit anyone inside a bin when grain is flowing. Unloading equipment must be shut off and locks applied to prevent an accidental restart.  Anyone entering a bin must wear a safety harness with a second person on the other end of a lifeline watching his every move.

Ladies, this is where you become your farm’s equivalent to an OSHA-compliance officer.  You are the only authority on the farm to make sure the men in your family do not do anything stupid that will prevent them from being at dinner that night.

As harvest begins and the grain storage season also begins, ladies, please make sure the grain bin safety season also begins on your farm.

You don’t look good in black.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 09/16 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

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