Grain entrapment is a problem throughout the Corn Belt, but for Posey County Farm Bureau, it became personal when one of their long-time leaders was involved in a grain entrapment.
Historically, nearly 60% of grain bin entrapments become fatalities, according to Bill Fields, extension safety specialist for the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. But Jim Droege of Mount Vernon beat the odds and survived.
How he survived – and how other farmers can become safer when handling grain – is the topic of a video funded by Posey County Farm Bureau called Anatomy of an Entrapment: Stop – Think – Live. The video reenacts Droege’s grain bin entrapment and explains how other farmers can avoid making the same mistakes.
Making farmers safer also is the reason Posey County and other Farm Bureaus have helped fund the purchase of the equipment needed for grain bin extractions and training for local rescue workers to learn how to use that equipment.
“There are now four tubes throughout the county,” said Mark Seib, a retired Poseyville firefighter who was president of the Posey County Farm Bureau at the time of Droege’s entrapment. Posey County Farm Bureau helped purchase those tubes partly as a result of what happened to Droege.
The video was produced in 2016, but it remains relevant because grain entrapment remains a serious threat. According to the most recent Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities, a report released annually by the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program, there were at least 42 grain-related entrapments in 2022, representing a 44.8% increase over 2021 – the highest number of grain entrapments in over a decade, the report said.
While the proportion of entrapments that result in death has decreased significantly in recent years, it remains high. Of the reported entrapment cases in 2022, 35.7% resulted in a fatality, which is lower than the five-year average, the report said.
Grain entrapments can happen so fast – much faster than most people realize.
“It takes very little to get in over your knees, and then you’re stuck,” Droege said.
“In just a matter of seconds, I was up to my shirt pocket in corn,” he added.
Fortunately, Droege’s brother, Paul, was right outside the bin, and after the combined efforts of Paul, a neighbor and Droege himself were not enough to extract him, they called 911 and a team of rescuers was able to get him safely out of the bin.
“It’s a rarity that we get to bring somebody out alive,” Seib said. “We were very thankful for the grain rescue tube.”
The decision to fund the video was a direct result of Droege’s case, Seib explained. Soon after the accident, the Posey County Farm Bureau board met and talked about promoting grain bin safety by explaining what had happened – and what could have happened – to Droege.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use this situation where Jim survived?’” Seib explained, and Droege himself agreed. The board hired a professional videographer to make the video, and Droege, Purdue and local rescue crews participated in reenacting the entrapment.
“It turned out much better than we imagined,” Seib said.
Posey County Farm Bureau continued its involvement with grain bin safety by working with the state of Indiana to ensure that training is available specifically for grain entrapments in order to make the program accessible for rural fire departments. It also continues to make the video available on flash drives that can be purchased from the Posey County Farm Bureau office.
Hundreds of copies have been distributed all over the country and even as far away as England.
“We’ve had a tremendous number of requests,” Seib said. “It’s amazing how much that video has gotten around.”
To view the video, visit Purdue’s “Agricultural Confined Spaces” page and scroll down to Anatomy of an Entrapment: Stop – Think – Live.
To purchase a copy, call the Poseyville Farm Bureau office at 812-874-2241.
Read the latest Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities here.