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Students learn about grain safety
"Think before you sink," was the main message at an interactive, informational table for students about grain safety at a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in Colusa on Friday.
One hundred and fifty-five students attended the event at the fairgrounds where they learned safety precautions for dealing with grain storage, chemicals, fire, food, electrical systems and more. The program was for fourth- through sixth-graders from Arbuckle, Grimes and Maxwell.
The danger of working in or playing around grain silos is poignant in Colusa County where rice is the number one crop and silo entrapments have taken place as recently as 2012.
"These events are good exposure for children and adults. Our area has a lot of children who grow up on a farm and they need to know what to do," said Carrie Wade, with Bunge the international agribusiness and food company.
Jamie Conner, a maintenance worker at Bunge-owned Pacific International Rice Mills in Woodland, presented safety risks and precautions about grain silos and storage to students.
Using a 2-inch tall mannequin strapped in a harness and standing atop rice in a miniature silo, Conner and his co-worker, Jesse Gonzalez, demonstrated the quick speed that a person can sink in rice as it flows out of the bottom.
"Two to three seconds is all it takes to be engulfed," Conner told students.
"Never walk on grain," said Gonzalez.
More than 660 farmers and workers have died in more than 1,000 grain entrapments since 1964, according to an investigation by National Public Radio and the Center of Public Integrity released in March.
The number of deaths in the nation has decreased to eight in 2012 from a record 31 in grain bins and other grain storage facilities in 2010, according to a 2013 Purdue University study.
In 1991, an employee of Bunge-owned Pacific International Rice Mills died after being engulfed by flowing rice and not wearing a harness, according to an Occupational Safety & Health Administration report.
More recently in Colusa County, a man was rescued by the Colusa County Confined Space Rescue Team from a rice silo in Dunnigan in March 2012.
Prior to that, Colusa men, Julio Cesar Villanueva and Omar Ramiro Aguilera, died in a rice dryer accident in 2005 when the partially filled silo began releasing rice while the employees were standing inside at Farmers' Rice Cooperative on Highway 45.
Williams Fire Chief Jeff Gilbert said that the county has 40 confined space technicians who have to train a minimum of three times a year. Gilbert started the Colusa County Confined Space Rescue Team after the 2005 deaths with monetary support from the area rice and tomato industries.
The main lesson to students on Friday was it is dangerous and potentially deadly to play in or around grain bins, wagons or truck beds.
In addition, Conner and Gonzalez introduced the strict safety precautions companies have instituted, including the use of harnesses.
Wade said the program displays Bunge's commitment to safety that "reflects our own goal of eliminating all incidents."
The farm safety day was Bunge's second year sponsoring the event in the area and the company plans to bring it back again next year