A mannequin is submerged in grain in CASA’s mobile demonstration unit.

CASA’s grain entrapment demonstration unit is educating the industry and helping save lives across the country.

Fifteen seconds.

That’s how quickly you can become submerged in a grain bin. In 2015, seven people died from becoming trapped in grain – four of them were children.

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) is working to change that. CASA has created the first grain entrapment mobile demonstration unit in Canada, as part of its grain safety program called BeGrainSafe. The mobile unit provides demonstrations and training sessions on how to successfully rescue someone who is trapped in grain, featuring a large trailer with a 100-bushel grain bin on top, a working deck and all the necessary safety equipment.
The mobile unit was unveiled at the Farm Progress Show in June, where Glen Blahey, agricultural safety and health specialist at CASA, says it received a very positive response. “The most frequent response from people viewing the demonstration was, ‘I never realized it happened so fast,’” he says.

Since its unveiling, the mobile unit has travelled toagriculture trade shows and other major agriculture events across the country, showing attendees the dangerous and deadly consequences of becoming trapped in grain.
A mannequin is used in the demonstrations, and is submerged up to its chest in grain. “The mannequin is standing on the surface of the grain bin and in about 15 seconds, it’s up to its chest in grain,” says Blahey. Once the mannequin is submerged, a sectional metal tube is placed around it, separating it from the rest of the grain in the bin. Using small buckets, scoops or small specialized augers, the grain is removed from inside the metal tube. When the grain level
is below the mannequin’s knees, the mannequin can be removed from the bin.

Immobilizing Pressure

Blahey says it’s common for people to think they can easily free themselves when they become trapped in a grain bin, but he stresses that it’s much more difficult than they might realize. To demonstrate this, CASA placed a two-kilogram mannequin leg in a display case at the FutureFarm Canada Expo in July. The leg was attached to a luggage scale and was then covered in 25 centimetres of grain.

The mannequin is standing on the surface of the grain bin and in about 15 seconds, it’s up to its chest in grain. Glen Blahey

“It took over 13 kilograms of force to lift that leg out of the grain. Everyone at the expo was saying, ‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe there’s that much force holding you down with just a little bit of grain on top of your leg,’ ” says Blahey.

Retailers should be aware of these situations, so we’d be happy to work with them to bring this training to their communities. Glen Blahey

“If you translate that concept from those 25 centimetres of grain covering your leg to covering your entire body, you quickly realize how immobilized you become.”

A volunteer firefighter from Olds, Alta., came to that same realization when he participated in one of CASA’s grain entrapment demos at the FutureFarm Canada Expo.

When the unit stopped at the FutureFarm Canada Expo in Olds, Alta., Capt. Lynn Roberts of the Olds Fire Department took his crew and other firefighters from Didsbury and Carstairs to take in a demonstration and decide if they wanted to receive training – another service offered by the mobile unit.

One of the firefighters from the Olds Fire Department asked to be submerged in the bin, rather than use the mannequin for the demonstration. The necessary precautions were taken, and the firefighter was submerged up to his waist.

(Grain bin rescue training) keeps everyone safe. We’re concerned about the safety of the person who’s trapped, but also the safety of the rescuers. Capt. Lynn Roberts

“He said he was surprised by how he thought he could pull himself out, but he couldn’t,” says Capt. Roberts. “He could feel the grain crushing him, he could feel the pressure.”

Since they have very few grain entrapment emergencies in their area, Capt. Roberts believes very few local fire departments have the necessary training. But despite the rarity of these incidents, he says it’s very important for emergency responders to have this kind of training.

“Any kind of rescue – doesn’t matter whether it’s grain entrapment or motor vehicle collisions – the more emergency responders, fire departments and EMS can train prior to any kind of incident and have a better understanding of what they’re dealing with, the better the outcome,” he says. “It keeps everyone safe. We’re concerned ab out the safety of the person who’s trapped, but also the safety of the rescuers.”

Blahey says the formal training of emergency responders will begin this fall and will be made available to fire departments across Canada. Once the course is available, CASA will contact departments that have already expressed interest in the training and will begin coordinating the trailer’s movement across the Prairies. They’ll also take any new requests for the unit into consideration.

“As we move from province to province, we will initially do a trainer program where we will train several master trainers in each province on how to use our mobile unit, along with how to deliver the emergency responder training program,” says Blahey. “Then, going forward, there will be teams in every province who will then be able to use the trailer to help them train individual fire departments.”

Training the Industry

The second step in their plan is to offer producers a training course on how to develop an emergency plan for their grain-handling operations. Blahey says that training course will be unveiled at CASA’s annual conference in October.
“In many, many instances when an emergency situation arises, there’s a bit of confusion and panic: ‘Who do I call? How do I describe the location? What do I do until the emergency responders arrive?’ ” he says. “So, it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about grain entrapment or a fire or a blizzard where the power goes out – you should have a game plan in place if that scenario occurs.”

Blahey believes the grain bin rescue training and the emergency plan training course aren’t exclusively for producers or emergency responders. He sees them as a great opportunity to involve agri-retailers, and their participation in the programs will show producers how dedicated they are to workplace safety.

“If there’s an agri-retailer who is interested in providing this service to their clients, we’d be happy to work with that agri-retailer, go into that community and arrange to have six or eight farm operations come together and deliver the course for all who are interested,” he says. “Retailers should be aware of these situations, so we’d be happy to work with them to bring this training to their communities.”

Visit casa-acsa.ca to have the mobile demonstration unit visit your community.


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