Grain workers train for engulfments [St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.]By Ray Scherer, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Oct. 24--EFFINGHAM, Kan. -- Grain industry workers received firsthand experience Tuesday in the mortal dangers of an engulfment while on the job.
The Kansas City chapter of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society held grain bin engulfment safety and rescue training for nearly 80 workers at the Atchison County Rural Fire District. Most participants belonged to any of the area's major grain companies, including Bunge -- which sponsored the classes -- and Bartlett, according to Steve Myers, who is an official with Bunge Milling in Atchison.
Grain engulfments aren't currently regarded as a problem in the region, Mr. Myers said.
"Our area does well," he said.
The morning and afternoon courses focused on safety and rescue procedures. Participants also had the opportunity to don special equipment and become engulfed in 200 bushels of corn. A simulator provided by the Safety and Technical Rescue Association contained the corn. The association is a nonprofit organization of experienced and trained emergency responders.
Those who decided to try the simulated engulfment found themselves at least chest high in the corn, Mr. Myers said.
"It isn't only grain," he said of the dangers. "Sometimes it's plastic pellets. It's hard to tell what they might be engulfed in ... Everybody needs to watch out for each other. It gets the people to thinking, instead of taking a short cut, maybe I should wait."
Bill Harp, SATRA's chief executive officer, also works as a firefighter in Detroit, Mich. He brought the simulator that was carried aboard a tractor-trailer rig. He has led the classes across rural areas of the United States and has even taught in Australia. His firm is heavily involved in the grain industry.
"We teach the hazards of flowing grain," Mr. Harp said. "It's getting worse. We're moving grain at faster rates, which makes it more dangerous. The challenge with that is there's more storage every year."
The students watched videos from Mr. Harp that offered training techniques and carried an account of an actual fatal grain engulfment in southwest Kansas. They learned that a suffocation can happen in just a few minutes, with total engulfments possible in as little as a half minute.
Mr. Harp also referred to the explosion at a Bartlett Grain facility in Atchison, Kan., last October that claimed six lives.
"We should certainly remember something from that event and take it forward," he said.
Statistics compiled by Purdue University show that 26 fatalities occurred in 2010 due to grain engulfments. Mr. Harp said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has placed higher emphasis on grain safety issues.
The companies were advised to employ a buddy system whenever work must be done in grain bins and to conduct annual training on emergency action plans. Awareness of local resources, such as fire departments and first responders, also was highlighted.
Several firefighters and first responders also attended the engulfment sessions, Mr. Myers said, along with Atchison County Emergency Management Director Wes Lanter.
Ray Scherer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.
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