DURHAM — Durham Region farmer Scott David Brown died after an accident in a corn drying silo at the home farm last month.
The 42-year old ran D.S. & B. Farms at Brock Township with his father Dave and stepbrother Brian. As of November 25, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development was still investigating.
Campbellford-area farmer and elevator operator Peter Archer knew the family, dealing mostly with Dave who was in charge of grain marketing. They were good farmers, Archer said.
He added that many farmers don’t recognize how dangerous bins can be. Going into bins to clear them out is unavoidable but there are things farmers can do to avoid having to as often or to do it more safely.
When it comes to dropping off crops, either at the home bin or the elevator, eliminating soybean pods and corn fines is crucial, Archer said. They plug up sumps and stick to themselves, forming large piles that can collapse: Corn especially can be terrifying, he said, when “30 tonnes of it comes down and buries a guy alive.”
At the bin itself, a key thing to remember is to never be in a bin that’s unloading. If you need to enter a bin from the top, you need somebody spotting you and a tethering device: Archer said harnesses with lanyards can be bought for around $120.
Being prepared in advance is key. Having a sucker-blower unit to collapse piles of grain, copper dams to create a pocket around someone who’s trapped and a tool that can cut open the side of a bin if need be can make the difference between life and death.
Other important checks include making sure the bin is grounded — Archer knows a farmer who was electrocuted by an ungrounded bin — and that the intermediate sumps in the bin are closed before you go in there. Another farmer, Evan Renwick of Huron County, lost half his foot to an intermediate sump. He stepped in an open one and the flighting on the sweep augur caught his foot and dragged it forward, tearing the skin from the bone. He ended up having the front of his foot amputated.
It’s important not to get too comfortable around bins, Archer said. “(Grain bins) don’t look like they’ll jump up and grab you. But there’s some inherent dangers.”