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Government plans to sponsor new Grain Safety Program for farmers

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada offers $375,000 in funding


(Canadian OH&S News) — Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has announced that it is offering $375,000 to fund a new grain-safety initiative by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). Aimed at the country’s agriculture sector, the Grain Safety Program is intended to raise public awareness of the hazards of working with grain storage.

Announced by the federal government and CASA on March 14, to coincide with Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, the multifaceted program will consist of a mobile grain-safety demonstration and training unit, an interactive display for trade shows, onsite emergency training for grain producers and rescue training for volunteer first responders.

“The issue of grain entrapment is certainly an issue of going concern throughout Canada,” explained Glen Blahey, CASA’s agricultural health and safety specialist, “and the frequency of grain-entrapment incidents in primary agricultural operations appears to be rising. In part, that’s predicated by the larger volumes of grain that are stored and the rates at which that grain is handled.”

The demonstration unit, which is currently under construction, will be a small scale-model grain-handling operation on a trailer that travels around to worksites, added Blahey.

“We’ll have about 120 bushels of grain in that grain-handling system,” he said, “and we’ll be able to, for demonstration purposes, engulf a mannequin in about seven to ten seconds to demonstrate to the general farming population how quickly it happens.” The unit will also demonstrate how much force that much grain exerts on a trapped individual, making it difficult to pull the person out.

The mobile unit will also provide training for emergency first responders and agricultural producers on how to develop emergency-response plans for grain entrapment. “There are not a lot of emergency responders in rural Canada who are trained on grain extrication,” continued Blahey, “and it is a fairly specialized field of work to conduct those kinds of rescues.

“So we want to make sure that, should an incident occur, the emergency-response teams are adequately trained and equipped to respond in a safe manner.”

The interactive display will aim to bring information and resources to farming trade shows, initially in the western provinces, but also to the rest of Canada within the next few years.

“We are working with industry to help Canada’s agriculture sector be more innovative, safer and stronger,” MaryAnn Mihychuk, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, Man., said in a press statement about the program. “Increased awareness [and] training for farmers and grain workers will help reduce grain-related injuries and fatalities.”

The program follows an incident in which three sisters, aged 11 to 13, became trapped in a dense pile of canola seeds and suffocated in a grain truck in Withrow, Alta. in Oct. 2015. Although this initiative will target grain workers of all ages, it will include tabletop youth displays for children from eight to 12 years old.

“Certainly, we want to make sure that the young farmers and the youth that are involved in agricultural operations are aware of and learn practices correctly, as opposed to having to unlearn and relearn subsequently,” said Blahey. “So we want to influence the culture of learning at the young-farmer level in a positive way.”

An average of 84 people die in farming-related incidents per year across Canada, according to information from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.