Co-op trains first responders on grain bin safety and rescue

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click image to zoom Landmark Services Cooperative recently hosted a grain bin safety and rescue training event for firefighters and emergency responders from Cambria, Wis., and Fall River, Wis. Strategies to prevent grain bin injuries and hands-on training to safely rescue anyone caught in grain bin accidents were shared with emergency responders.

It is critical that emergency responders participate in these types of training events with the number of grain bin entrapments trending higher in recent years. That’s according to Matt Solymossy, safety manager at Landmark Services Cooperative who helped organize the training event in collaboration with Dale Ekdahl of Outstate Data.

A driving factor behind the uptick in accidents is the increase in the size of grain bins.

“Today we have 250,000, 500,000, 750,000 and 1-million bushel bins,” explains Ekdahl. “Any slide of grain in these bins can be serious. It’s not just 200 or 300 bushels of grain moving; it can be 30,000 bushels of grain moving (in one grain shift), creating more hazards for people working in the bins.”

Both Solymossy and Ekdahl agree that working with grain bins has become more hazardous; therefore, the two worked together to share tips on grain bin safety and rescue at the recent training event.

Grain bin safety

“The majority of entrapments happen on farms that are located in rural areas where volunteer fire departments are the first responders,” says Solymossy, pointing out that oftentimes fire departments aren’t very familiar with grain bins and the associated hazards.

This is one of the many reasons Landmark Services Cooperative is partnering with Outstate Data to educate first responders on the hazards of grain bins. “Not only will first responders be better prepared to protect themselves, but they will also have the skillset to carry out a successful rescue if the situation presents itself,” explains Solymossy.

Ryan Hart, second assistant chief with the Cambria Fire Department in Cambria, Wis., brought a group from his team to the training. “Training like this is essential because we receive the hands-on practice rescuing but we also have the hands-on experience of being the victim and understanding that situation,” says Hart who plans to share the knowledge he learned with the rest of his team at an upcoming training meeting.


Grain entrapments can be caused by a number of reasons, including:

  • Not locking out equipment. “If someone goes into the bin and the unload auger is started, it can suck someone down and bury them that way,” says Solymossy.
  • Grain is out of condition. “This is one of the leading hazards,” says Solymossy. “Whether the corn freezes together because it’s high moisture or clumps together because it has rotted, people can fall through the grain if they’re walking on top or it can fall off the wall on top of the victim.”

Grain bin rescue

“The best rescue strategy is to prevent a problem before it occurs,” says Solymossy. “Entering a grain bin should always be a last resort.

“If you must enter a grain bin, monitor the area using an air monitor,” he adds. “Lock out all equipment, so no augers can start. And always work with an observer; never go in by yourself. At the very minimum, your observer will be there to contact emergency services if something does happen.”

When a firefighter does get a call for a grain rescue, the priority is to get his or her cofferdam (grain rescue tube) to the site. The cofferdam is a 10-panel tube that allows emergency personnel to safely rescue a potential victim. The cofferdam is a critical element in the rescue as it can prevent additional grain from falling while a rescue is underway. Once the cofferdam is assembled around the victim, emergency responders can remove the grain surrounding the victim. Rescues should be performed by trained emergency responders.

“In the best case rescue scenarios, the victim walks out of the entrapment via steps found on two inside panels of the cofferdam,” says Ekdahl. “More importantly though, we encourage people to stay out of the bin if at all possible. This prevents the danger in the first place.”

To learn more about grain bin safety and rescue, visit

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