Agricultural safety experts at the University of Iowa are urging farmers to take extra precautions while vacuuming grain this harvest season as two Iowa farmers have suffocated in separate grain bin accidents in the past few weeks. Risto Rautiainen, is a U-of-I professor of occupational and environmental health and deputy director with the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health. He says there was one case in 1998 where a farmer suffocated while using a grain auger, and more recently there were two cases.The latest fatalities occurred recently near Cedar Rapids and LeMars about a week apart while the farmers were vacuuming grain from storage bins. Rautiainen says farmers should take precautions to minimize the risks of becoming entrapped by grain inside a bin.In a 1998 incident, a 64-year-old farmer and owner of a grain vacuuming service suffocated under several feet of grain while vacuuming corn from a bin. That can happen when corn lodged at the sides of a bin or in a spoiled column in the middle collapses and covers the farmer. Rautianinen says such incidents can happen quickly as those grain vacuums can move six-thousand bushels an hour. He suggests using a long staff instead of climbing into the bin. Also, have another person standing by so that if something does happen, the flow can be stopped and the person can be rescued. For more information about safe grain handling, harvesting and storage, consult the National Agricultural Safety Database at www.cdc.gov/nasd/menu/topic/grain.html.
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