Donation equips Clark County Fire Department to fight grain entrapment

Published 9:27 am Thursday, October 12, 2023

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Farming is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, with a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study reporting 23 work-related deaths per 10,000 workers in the agriculture industry.

One of the significant dangers facing farmers is grain entrapment, where an individual is trapped in a confined space such as a silo or grain cart; but, thanks to a donation, the Clark County Fire Department now has the tools to rescue local farmers should they become stuck.

The Clark County Extension Office, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Clark County Cattlemen’s Association and Southern States partnered to purchase the equipment and fund training.

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The equipment is made up of a large tube and an auger.

“It’s called a turtle shell; that is the generic term for it, but that is what we will use to get people out if they are engulfed or entrapped in a situation where grain has them trapped in a silo or a car or things of that nature,” said Clark County Fire Chief Steve Asbury.

The fire department trained to use its new equipment late in September on Gilkison Farm.

Clark County Extension Agent Levi Berg explained how the equipment works.

“If someone is entrapped in grain, there is a lot more pressure there is a lot more pressure than what is needed to pull that person out,” Berg said. “If someone is up to their waist, it is not that bad, but if someone is up to their chest, it can be up to a ton of pressure that is needed to pull an individual out of the grain. So what this equipment does is that it goes around the individual and then it stabilizes the grain outside. Then you use the safety auger or other methods to get grain from inside of that tube out so that person can actually get out.”

The equipment arrived at the perfect time, as grain entrapments have quietly become a serious safety threat on agricultural operations.

According to Nationwide Insurance, more than 300 grain entrapments have been officially recorded in the past decade, and another estimated 30% go unreported. In 2021, at least 29 grain entrapments were reported, resulting in 11 fatalities.

“It is a serious problem; nobody ever knows about it until it happens,” Asbury said.

While Clark County has had a few entrapment rescues in the past, Asbury said he could not recall any during his tenure as chief.

However, it is in the department’s purview to prevent such incidents from occurring.

“Trying to have the foresight to understand that these problems exist in our county – and they do exist – we are just trying to prepare if that situation ever does come about,” Asbury said.

Berg said that the cost of the equipment and training cost around $5,000  and is money well spent.

“There is not many people that have dealt with farmers that have passed away in these tragic accidents, but it does not only affect their family, but it affects the entire community. So if you can save one life, it is worth it,” Berg said.