Be bin safe
Greg Setter has climbed the ladder on his grain bins for years, in all types of weather, without incident. With every step taken, the chore has become second nature to the Canadian farmer. As he ascends and descends, Setter also knows it is one of the most dangerous tasks he performs.
“In my more than 50 years farming, I have always been cautious when climbing a grain bin, stressing safety with family members and anyone who worked for me,” says Setter, who is also the president and general manager at Setter Manufacturing Division in Manitoba, Canada. “When I fell 22 feet climbing a ladder to secure a bin lid, I realized that if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.”
Although he was wearing fall protection gear, Setter admits he was in a rush, which led to his accident. “The safety harness I was using is one where you reach down and unlatch it as you climb up and down the ladder. When you do that, you want to hang on to the ladder with one hand and use the other hand to unhook the safety latch. Because I was in a hurry, I did not do that,” he recalls.
Breaking his pelvis in four places, Setter could not put any pressure on his legs for six weeks. “I can still feel areas where I tore 3 to 6 inches of muscle off the bone,” he says.
Falls on a farm are the leading cause of lost-work-time claims in
Canada, says Jesse Kope, marketing manager, Northern Strands, a safety supply company based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In Alberta, there were 62 claims in 2018 and 74 in 2019, according to AgSafe Alberta. In the United States, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury every day, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. However, experts believe many accidents go unreported, making it difficult to say with certainty how many injuries occur and how many work hours are lost due to falls while climbing a grain bin.
“Every time we talk to a farmer, it’s amazing how many tell us that they have either fallen off a bin or know someone who has. Several have even fallen multiple times,” Kope says.
New OSHA Regulations
To reduce injuries, OSHA implemented new ladder regulations. As of November 2018, the rule requires employers to have a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system on fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet. The new ruling also phases out the use of cages or wells for fall protection. You can learn more about the specific requirements at osha.gov.
To make it safer to climb bins, Northern Strands has developed Bin Safe. The award-winning fall protection system works by connecting a cable that runs parallel to the ladder to the patented, engineered anchor near the bin lid. The user attaches a wire rope traveler that connects to a lanyard and the user’s harness. It can be retrofitted to most grain bins.
“I like the Bin Safe system because I don’t have to unhook and rehook. This means I can climb fast, still be safe, and be tied off on top of the bin,” says Setter, adding that all his grain bins are now equipped with the system.
Not only does it add safety to the outside of the bin, but the inside as well. “Every farmer leans in when he’s at the top of the bin checking his grain. This system will keep you from falling into the bin,” Setter says.
The cost varies depending on bin type. However, Kope says a customer will never pay more than $180 per bin kit. The system also requires a $305 user kit (includes the harness, lanyard, and rope traveler), which services all the bins.
“A fall from a grain bin not only causes serious injury but can also be very costly for a farm. Some of our customers are large farms with employees. They understand the potential cost of an employee falling is far greater than the cost of Bin Safe,” Kope says.
“If I’d had this system in 2014, I wouldn’t have had any problem climbing the ladder because the special wire rope grab would have followed me all the way up the bin,” Setter says.