Last year at the 2019 Ag In Motion show I don’t know how many times I saw this poor farmer fall off the side of a grain bin, but he never hit the ground. He was equipped with fall arrest gear. I thought it was just a good visual reminder at the Meridian grain bin display about the importance of farm safety measures.
And in many ways it was a very good visual. But it was during the virtual Ag In Motion farm show this week (still on until Saturday afternoon www.aginmotion.ca) I learned that fall arrest isn’t necessarily common equipment on most farms.
If you don’t have fall arrest equipment installed on grain bins in your yard, perhaps it’s time you gave it serious consideration. The point to be made — it’s going to cost a few hundred dollars per bin for fall arrest equipment, but if someone breaks a leg, or their back or worse falling off the side of bin, that’s might come with a cost that can’t be measured.
“Falls on the farm, including falls off grain bins, are the number one cause of loss-time accidents on the farm,” says Jesse Kope, marketing manager for Northern Strands. Northern Strands is the Saskatchewan based developer of the Bin Safe fall arrest equipment. They have about a dozen distributors of the equipment across Western Canada (including Meridian) and now into the U.S. You can learn more about the company and their wide range of products at www.northernstrands.com. The Bin Safe system has won innovation and safety awards at Ag In Motion, Manitoba AG Days and Red Deer’s Agri-Trade show in recent years.
SHOW SPECIALS ON-LINE
Northern Strands, which has been around about 50 years, has supplied a wide range of equipment to the mining and construction industries over the years. And they came to the virtual Ag In Motion farm show this year with some excellent agricultural product show specials — 25 per cent off shackles, lever and chain hoists, tow straps, all types and diameters of cable, and electric fencing wire. Again visit their website to check out show specials.
But in recent years as they diversified their product line they developed the Bin Safe fall arrest system for farms. There’s an excellent video on their website and You Tube showing how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-mWtU24vno#action=share
“You really can’t be involved in any other industry without fall arrest equipment being required,” says Kope. “Occupational Health and Safety generally specify anytime a worker is more than 10 feet off the ground they need to be outfitted with fall arrest equipment. I don’t think there are any grain bins on farms today that are less the 10 feet — everything is taller.”
Even the cage that wraps around the ladder on the side of some grain bins is no longer considered a sufficient safety measure. Climbers can still fall inside the cage and then if they are hung up or injured it can become a more complicated rescue effort.
THE BIN SAFE SYSTEM
Bin Safe is a two-component system. First is the Bin Kit which is essentially the anchor cable attached to the top of the bin with anywhere from 40 to 60 to 80 feet of wire rope (depending on the height of the bin) laying against the ladder and reaching down to the ground. The other component is the User Kit, which includes a four-foot lanyard, fall protection harness and wire rope grab.
The Bin Kits can range in price from about $165 up to $230 per bin, with price variation depending on the height of the bin and whether it is a smooth walled or galvanized bin. And the User Kit costs about $390.
Kope says ideally there should be a Bin Kit installed on every grain bin. He says most farmers can probably handle installation themselves — it takes about 20 minutes — although installation can be arranged. When it comes to the User Kit, he says often one is enough for most farms — put on the harness and rope grab and you can check as many bins as needed. A second or more harnesses might be needed if commonly more than one person is climbing bin walls at a time.
The Bin Safe system has been tested all ways from Sunday and proven to be effective and reliable. As Northern Strands points out the equipment won’t prevent a person from falling, but it will arrest or prevent them from experiencing that last foot or so of a fall, which everyone knows can be really nasty.
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]