December 08, 2022

Mom asks farmers to stay safe around grain bins

WAVELAND, Ind. — Anita Howard lost her 18-year-old son Colten in a tragic grain bin engulfment accident in 2019.

Howard’s story is tragic — but she shares it in hopes that even one life might be saved.

“Colten was involved in a grain bin on Nov. 22, 2019, while he was working for a local farmer,” she said during an episode of Movin’ the Pile podcast.

“His accident was 100% preventable. While I’ll never know the exact details from the day, I know that he had to act without thinking before he entered the bin that claimed his life.”

After researching grain bin fatalities following the accident, Howard learned how frequent these accidents happen.

She wishes she had known the dangers before she lost her son.

“I believe that, had his dad and I been better educated about the dangers associated with working around grain bins, we would have been talking to our son about safety precautions on a regular basis,” she said.

“My son’s death was preventable. I do feel like we let him down because we were not talking about it. We were not educated. We did not know the things we should have been telling him.

“Had we been talking about grain-bin safety, I believe he would have taken more precautions on that day,” Howard said. “I have now made it my mission to help spread awareness.

“I am a momma on a mission. I want every farmer and every employee to go home at the end of the day — not just the hat and the pair of boots that came home to me.”

When something that happens that causes a farmer to need to enter a bin, he or she should think about their safety first and foremost, Howard said.

“His or her life is the most important factor when it comes to any task,” she said. “If he or she must enter a bin, there are a few things that must be done prior to entering.

“They should stop, think and then act. A proper lifeline and harness needs to be used. Simply tying a rope around your waist is not a proper lifeline and harness. The power needs to be shut off. Lockout, tagout procedures need to be followed.

“A buddy needs to be outside of the bin, two would be better — one on the top, one on the ground.”

If a buddy witnesses an accident, they should immediately turn off the power and stop the flow of grain.

Next, call 911 immediately to report a possible grain bin engulfment.

Emergency responders will bring appropriate equipment for extraction.

“If possible, ventilate the bin with a fan,” Howard said. “It’s important that you do not attempt to enter the bin to try and save the individual because you could become trapped, as well.

“Do not attempt to pull the individual from the grain as the force of the grain pushing down on the person could cause severe bodily damage. If possible, talk to the individual to help keep them calm and let them know help is on the way.”

Howard is not a safety expert, but research has taught her what the best thing to do is in case of entrapment.

She teared up as she discussed the best steps.

“What I have learned in my short time since the accident is that the person should try to stay calm,” Howard said. “Try not to take deep breaths. Instead, take short, shallow breaths.

“Keep your hands crossed over your chest and try to put your shirt over your mouth and nose.”

Listen to the entire podcast at incornandsoy.org/movin-the-pile-podcast/.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor