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Grain rescue simulator to help educate about the hazards of flowing grain

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Written Thursday, May 03, 2012  

A group of Ohio State University students in conjunction with Ohio State University Extension are working to design Ohio's first Grain Rescue Simulator trailer, which will be used to train first responders, grain industry employees and farm families about the hazards of flowing grain.

The grain rescue simulator is being created to meet training needs identified by first responders who are called to an agricultural scene where grain is stored, said Dee Jepsen, OSU Extension state safety leader.

Grain bin rescues can be classified as confined-space rescues, requiring technical training in various capacities. Rescue personnel have requested specific training in these unconventional rescue situations, where they have limited experience and limited knowledge of the agricultural conditions that exist, she said.

"This mobile training unit will be a scaled replica grain system, complete with a grain leg and moving conveyors, on a 40-foot flatbed trailer," Jepsen said. "The project shows a combined dedication of Ohio State students and faculty working cooperatively with grain industry partners to provide training solutions for Ohio fire departments and emergency medical technicians."

The trailer will be donated to the state of Ohio to be used by the Ohio Fire Academy and OSU Extension to increase the training capacity in the area of agricultural rescue, she said.

The need for such training is significant, considering the potential risks when working with grain on the farm. In fact, of the 1.7 million full-time workers that were employed in production agriculture in the U.S. in 2009, 440 farmworkers died from a work-related injury for a fatality rate of 24.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Farm-related fatalities from grain engulfment are steadily increasing each year, Jepsen said.

"Such fatalities occur for a variety of reasons with the two most common being suffocation by engulfment and entanglement with moving parts," she said. "The mobile training unit will allow demonstrations that are designed to help bridge the knowledge gap between emergency personnel and farming incidents they may encounter, in addition to providing farming families with steps they can take before the emergency personnel arrive."

The building of more on-farm storage systems increases the risk for grain engulfments. Jepsen said that the rescue demonstrations serve two purposes: to demonstrate the hazards of grain engulfment and to educate emergency personnel on the unique equipment needed during grain rescue runs.

"There is a continual need for rural medics and fire departments to understand the complexity of an agricultural incident. They are dealing with equipment and environmental conditions they normally wouldn't see in a rescue situation," said Jepsen. "Knowing how to shut off the equipment or isolate an entrapped victim is important to preventing further injury or even death."

Five students in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering are enrolled in a senior capstone project to design this training unit.

Beyond designing the specialized trailer, they are also working with sponsors who have already contributed over 60 percent of the $95,000 project. The students recently received a donation of $10,000 from the Heritage Cooperative and the Land O'Lakes Foundation. This is in addition to other donations received from Deerfield Farms Service Inc., Unverferth Mfg. Co. Inc., Custom Agri Systems Inc., Sims Construction and Load Out Technologies, Jepsen said.

She said additional donations for the project are needed and welcome. The project is scheduled for completion in June and will be in operation at Farm Science Review, Sept. 18-20 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

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