Silo death raises safety concerns for farmers in central Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania recorded a total of 39 farm and agriculture-related deaths in 2020.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – According to data from Penn State Agriculture Health & SafetyFarming and agriculture-related communities have been impacted in many ways due to growing industrial demand in central Pennsylvania.

One of those ways seems to be an increase in the number of fatal incidents like the one in Cumberland County on Monday May 2.

Pennsylvania recorded a total of 39 farm and agriculture-related fatalities in 2020, representing a significant increase in fatalities from the previous five-year average.

This rise is causing concern to people like Bill Zeiders, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s director of communications.

“Farms are dangerous places,” Zeiders explained. He said the Pa. Farm Bureau stresses the importance of safety in areas related to agriculture.

“We organize events, we disseminate as much information as possible that encourages good and safe practices on farms,” he said. “…We also partner with Nationwide for Grain Bin Safety Week, which encourages safe practices…and part of that program is to provide what are known as ‘Grain Bin Rescue Tubes’ to fire departments in different rural areas.”

Many local fire departments, like the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire, support initiatives with rural partners to keep farms safe.

Harrisburg Bureau Firefighter Brent Hill says these partnerships are an important aspect of their job because of the many farms located in central Pennsylvania.

Farm and silo rescue missions in particular, Hill said, can be extremely dangerous and require specific tools and techniques.

“Often with a silo you can almost think of it as a trench because trenches collapse [with] soft ground,” Hill explained. “You’re working in a confined space, and then the way they’re shaped – often you’re dealing with rope rescue and rope access, so all of those disciplines sort of overlap. “

However, even with training and education, Zeiders knows the results could turn tragic if proper safety protocols are not followed by farms.

“Things like this can happen at any time…and sometimes it can be a fatal decision,” Zeiders said.

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