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Sep 19, 2014
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February 2014 Archive for Farm Talk on the Front Porch

RSS By: Grinnell Mutual, AgWeb.com

You face risks as you cultivate crops and raise livestock. We’ll share tips, stories and recommendations to help you protect property and prevent costly losses on the farm. It's our Policy of Working Together®.

The habits of highly effective grain handlers

Feb 25, 2014

Picture this: As an auger unloads a grain bin, a farm employee enters the bin from the top to break up clumps in the grain. The grain gives way and grain engulfs the employee, who dies of asphyxiation before he can be rescued from the grain bin.

Since 1970, roughly half of the 1,059 documented grain entrapments have resulted in death. Nearly two-thirds of those entrapments occurred in the 10 states that make up the Corn Belt, according to Purdue University.  

"Entering a grain storage bin without appropriate personal protection and without an outside attendant is an extremely hazardous action to take," said Larry Gallagher, director of Corporate Loss Control at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "Entry into a bin should be a last resort action."

Stored grain has incredible weight and force. A 12-inch layer of grain can weigh as much as 300 pounds, enough weight to entrap a grown person or suffocate a child. That is equivalent to being trapped under a college football lineman. 

Handling grain safely can prevent accidents

2009 was a record crop for many farmers. However, high moisture levels in the harvested grain led to a record number of entrapments in 2010. The 2013 grain harvest also had higher than average moisture levels, potentially creating a situation known as grain bridging where grain clumps together to form a crust with an open space below it. Unknowingly, workers may enter the bin and break through the bridge.

"Make every effort to eliminate grain bridging before you enter a grain bin," said Gallagher. "Poles and extension devices can be used from the top of the bin to try to dislodge the grain." 

If grain is attached to the sidewall of the bin, Gallagher recommends trying to dislodge it from outside the bin. This may be accomplished through the use of an extension pole through the top manhole cover or by striking the exterior wall of the bin in the area where the grain is adhering to the bin walls.  Tool selection is important when attempting to free the grain using this second option.  A rubber mallet may allow you to strike the exterior wall and dislodge the grain yet not damage/dent the exterior wall of the bin. 

If you go in the bin

"First, make certain that the individuals going in are provided with a full body harness connected to a lanyard," said Gallagher. "Also, make sure they have training prior to going into the grain bin."

"Next, have an outside attendant that can remain in constant communication with the individuals inside the grain bin. Finally, shut down power to all grain handling equipment prior to anyone entering the bin."

If the grain storage facility is on a family farm, Grinnell Mutual recommends following these safety tips from Farm Safety For Just Kids when handling grain:

  • Always lock all access doors to grain storage structures.
  • Never permit children to ride in grain wagons or enter grain storage areas.
  • Always know where ALL family members are (especially children) at all times when grain is being loaded, unloaded, moved or otherwise handled.


Grain bin safety should be like wearing a seat belt

Gallagher emphasizes that handling grain safely has to become a habit.

"The safety harness, the lanyard, the attendant, and the shutdown of the power to the equipment within the bin--it's like a seat belt in a car. These actions should be automatic. They have to happen."

For more information about safe work practices and grain storage bins, visit Safety Talks on Grinnell Mutual's website, grinnellmutual.com. 

Be wary of weather that can affect ice thickness

Feb 18, 2014

Winter recreation enthusiasts are accustomed to watching weather forecasts so they can plan skiing, skating, snowmobiling, and fishing activities. Paul Christensen, a claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual, knows how weather can be friend and foe. Last winter he had a close call while fishing with a friend on a private farm pond. 

"It was a nice day. When we started out on the pond it was below freezing, but it warmed up to 43 degrees and the ice was melting fast," said Christensen. "The ice was five-and-a-half inches when we started. While sitting in my ice shack we noticed that there was a lot of water sitting there, more than the little bit you get with a heater. The amount of water was excessive, so we checked the ice again."

Using a marked ice scoop, Christensen measured the ice thickness. The ice depth shrank to four inches, a minimum thickness for ice fishing.  Immediately they packed up the shack and their gear, getting off the ice. 

Watch for signs of bad ice

Weather conditions change through winter. Days get longer and temperatures rise. These conditions can cause ice to melt from the top and bottom. If you choose to go out on the ice, remember these tips:

  • Check ice thickness. Ice needs to be at least four inches thick for ice fishing. Avoid ice that is cloudy, slushy, or showing signs of discoloration -- these are signs of weakness, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. You can check ice depth using an ice auger or chisel. Check in multiple locations as ice depth is rarely uniform on a body of water.
  • Bring safety items. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends wearing ice picks and bringing at least 50 feet of rope and a floatation device for use in a rescue effort.
  • Fish with a friend. If your fishing buddy goes through the ice, call 911 for help, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Resist the urge to run to the edge of the hole. Instead, extend an object or throw a rope to give your friend something to grasp and pull to safety.

As weather conditions change in these last weeks of winter, don’t get trapped on thin ice. Be aware, check the ice, and bring equipment that you can use to rescue a friend or yourself.

Lake rides can be a breakthrough opportunity for snowmobilers

Feb 11, 2014

You may be tired of the ice and cold this winter, but snowmobilers are taking advantage of the conditions to ride and enjoy this season's snowy splendor. Trails are the most popular choice for snowmobilers, but some seek out lakes and other open spaces. Even though lakes appear to be flat, wide open areas free of obstructions, they have a unique set of challenges that could lead to serious injury. Grinnell Mutual recommends using good judgment in choosing where to ride your snowmobile.

The safest snowmobiling rule is never to cross a frozen body of water on your machine. If you choose to ride your snowmobile on a lake, don't trust the judgment of other snowmobilers. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends checking with a local resort or bait shop about ice conditions or checking the ice yourself with an ice auger or chisel. Ice depth should be a minimum of five inches for snowmobiles. 

Even on thick ice, operating a snowmobile a lake raises concerns for Laurie Cisewski, claims adjuster with Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. 

"Longer days and warm air temperatures may melt snow, creating water currents in lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds that can affect the thickness and strength of ice," said Cisewski. "In addition, snow cover can act as a blanket, which prevents thick, strong ice from forming and may mask deteriorating ice. There's always a possibility of going through and drowning."

What to do if you break the ice

If you do break through, try to remain calm and follow these tips from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

  1. Turn in the water towards the direction you came from. That is probably the strongest ice.
  2. Pull yourself out. Using ice picks, stab the ice, kick vigorously with your feet, and pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
  3. Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.
  4. Get warm. Go to a heated shelter or vehicle, change into dry clothing, and warm yourself with non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks.

Open spaces create unique challenges

On a frozen lake the threat of a collision comes from any direction. 

"If you can ride and turn in any direction so can other riders," said Cisewski. 'In addition, you have far less traction for starting, turning and stopping on ice than on snow."

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends that you don't overdrive your snowmobile's headlight. Even at speeds as low as 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. By the time you come upon an ice fishing house or a hole in the ice, it may be too late to avoid an accident.

"For the most enjoyable ride, have the right safety gear, clothing, limit your alcohol consumption, and ride at a safe distance," said Cisewski.   


Home cooking, scald-free: Preventing scalds in your home

Feb 05, 2014

Many people warm up to home-cooked meals and hot beverages in winter months. During Burn Awareness Week (February 2-8), Grinnell Mutual wants you to enjoy those tasty meals and drinks without painful scalds.

Water or other liquids heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a third degree burn in as little as five seconds, according to a report from the American Burn Association.

"Always be careful when you’re cooking sauces, soups, or any kind of hot liquid. There’s always a danger," says Alan Clark, assistant vice president of Special Investigations at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "You have two or three things going on, you get distracted, and it catches up to you."

Kitchen time is family time

Preparing a home-cooked meal with children present may be a recipe for scalds, says Clark, but involving them in food preparations can be beneficial.

"Small children like to reach up and grab things off the counter or off the stove. Make sure you keep hot pans and dishes away from the edge and monitor their activities as well as your own. As your kids get older, teach them how to cook. Teach them safety around the kitchen. Let them do things while you supervise," said Clark. "You’ll find these children are less likely to have issues later because they grew up around it."

If young children are at home while you cook, keep them out of the traffic path between the stove, sink, and dinner table. Have a place where children can safely play while supervised. Keep young children in high chairs or a safe distance from countertops and stovetops.

Whether you are cooking on the stovetop, with a crockpot, or in the microwave, Grinnell Mutual recommends following these tips to prevent scalds in your kitchen and at your dinner table:

Keep your kitchen scald-free

  • Stand by your pan. Never leave food unattended on the stove. "When you’re not paying attention, that’s when you can run into a problem," says Clark.
  • Use the back burner. When young children are present, cook on back burners. 
  • Turn in your handles. Always keep pot handles turned away from the stove edge. 
  • Lift the lid away from you. When removing lids from hot foods, lift the cover or lid away from your face and arm to redirect steam that may have accumulated.  "One of the biggest dangers in the kitchen is getting scalded by steam," says Clark. "You take the lid off of the pan and you get a release of hot vapors."  
  • Beware of a wet oven mitt. A hot pot or pan can heat a wet oven mitt quickly, causing scalds. 
  • Watch the cords. Any appliance cords should be coiled and away from the counter edge, too.
  • Hot oils can splatter. "Always be cautious anytime you cook with hot oils so that you don’t get splatters because they can cause scalds," says Clark.


Microwaved foods can scald

  • Open slowly. Steam can build inside a food container that has been in the microwave. For example, the steam trapped in a bag of microwave popcorn can be 180 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Open containers slowly and away from your face. 
  • Be patient. Microwaved foods and beverages can heat unevenly, so stir your food or beverage and allow your microwaved food to cool before eating.


At the dinner table

  • Establish a kid zone. Keep hot foods and liquids out of reach. Place hot items in the center of the table, at least 10 inches (about the length of one dinner plate) from the table’s edge. Use non-slip placemats and trivets instead of tablecloths. 
  • Don’t drink and carry. Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child. Your quick motions may cause you to spill on the child.


If you get a scald

If you receive a scald, follow these scald tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:

  • Cool the scald. Treat a scald right away by putting it in cool water. Cool the scald for three to five minutes.
  • Uncover the scald. Remove all clothing, diapers, jewelry and metal from the scalded area. These can hide underlying scalds and retain heat, which can increase skin damage.
  • Recover the scald with a clean, dry cloth. Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays or other home remedies.
  • For certain scalds, seek medical attention. If the scalded area is bigger than your fist or if you have any questions about how to treat it, seek medical attention right away. See your doctor as soon as possible if the scald does not heal in two to three days.


For more information about preventing scalds, visit Safe Kids Worldwide, the National Fire Protection Association, or the U.S. Fire Administration. Some information in this article is used with permission of the American Burn Association, with support of a grant from the U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, with funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress under the Assistance to Firefighters Act (Fire Prevention and Safety Grants). 

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