A 68-year-old Clark County farmer, Warren Mumma, died after falling and sinking into a grain bin filled with 10,000 bushels of corn. Mumma was loading corn in a tractor-trailer with his son when he climbed to the bin’s top without a safety harness. He was trying to install an auger which would move corn away from the bin’s walls. The grain bin’s main auger was still running.
Mumma’s son, who was driving the truck while they offloaded grain, made the 911 call. The Columbus Dispatch describes the scene: “Rescuers tried to get to Warren Mumma in time. They even brought up specialized equipment from nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base.”
Dayton Daily News reports, “Bethel Township Fire and EMS Chief Jacob King said that without safety equipment, it would take only seconds to sink to the bottom.” He said, “It engulfs you, so you sink like quicksand. That would be like if you were in a trench collapse.”
OSHA regulations don’t apply to family farms
Safety harnesses are required on commercial operations. Since Mummas was working on a family farm, the rule did not apply. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Cincinnati office director, Bill Wilkerson, said that although OSHA officials knew about the accident, they could only probe into grain bin accidents in commercial farms.
Wilkerson expressed that while it is not compulsory for family farmers to meet OSHA regulations, they are encouraged to follow safety measures when they enter grain bins. A study by Purdue University revealed that in 2010, 69% of entrapments occurred on farms exempt from the OSHA standards for Grain Handling Facilities.
Ohio invests in grain bin rescue equipment
Heather Utter, director of the Farm Bureau office for Adams, Brown, Clermont, and Highland counties in Ohio said, “We are such an agricultural state that we have to make sure we’re focusing on the best safety practices that we can.”
To that end, the office bought two new trailers with grain bin rescue tubes and trained emergency personnel on their use. When these tubes are inserted into the grain, they relieve pressure on the entrapped person. This gives rescuers more time.
It’s possible that access to rescue equipment or preventative grain bin regulations on family farms might have saved Mumma. Still, the most effective change would be if farmers themselves realize the need for safety measures and take precautions. After all, grain handling might be the country’s most dangerous job.