July 8 2015 06:23 AM

Enclosed spaces can be death traps

Farmers are busy people with a long list of tasks to complete and a shortage of daylight. However, a little extra time to think through a situation could save a life.

manure pitLast week, a father and son lost their lives when the father descended down the ladder through a 4-foot-diameter pipe to retrieve a wheel that broke off the manure conveyor. He was overcome by the fumes and perished in the manure pit. His 21-year-old son tried to save his father, but the gases were too much for him as well. A family and a Wisconsin community lost two vibrant members.

When we posted the early report on Facebook, it had dozens of comments, an abundance of shares and a widespread reach. Most of the comments were people sending their support to the family but also some sharing their perspective about losing a loved one themselves to similar farming accidents. In farming circles, I think we all know someone personally who has been impacted by tragedy, yet accidents continue to happen.

Back to the recent manure pit tragedy. The Fire Department Chief commented that it's a natural instinct to want to help, but call for help, and then wait for help to arrive. I realize it must be agonizing to wait when you know someone could need your help immediately.

Grain bins also present similar perils. In 2010, 26 people died in grain bin entrapments. Not an exorbitant number, but people matter, and one life lost is one too many. That's the highest number on record. Safety steps are well known, but not everyone abides.

In northwest Wisconsin last fall, a 30-year employee of a feed mill entered a grain bin to unclog a sump. He was engulfed in a sea of corn and died. His employer was familiar with the precautions to prevent this type of injury but failed to follow them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited them for two willful and eight serious violations.

Even though signs are posted to remind people of dangers, they must be read and followed in order to be effective.

Please take that extra moment to think about your actions. It could save your life.
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The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.