NEW MADRID -- As Southeast Missouri farmers prepare for the spring planting season, New Madrid County agriculture experts would like to refresh them with information on farm safety before they head back into the fields full-time.
"Farming is one of the most dangerous above-ground occupations there is, and a lot of times, it's No. 1," said Jeff House, agronomy specialist for New Madrid County University of Missouri Extension office. "You can't find me a farmer that hasn't had an accident one way or another. I've got scars and have had stitches and broken bones, and it's always due to something that I knew better than to do."
Working an 80-hour week makes a person tired and accidents happen, House said.
"They don't pay attention to the little things and they add up," House said. Sometimes it's not the fact someone is injured in an accident but a piece of farm equipment is damaged, House said.
"You'll be trying to beat the rain and get things going or you're having a bad day, and if you're not careful, it will come back and bite you," House said.
As a result, a farm safety seminar is planned for 1:30 p.m. March 31 at the New Madrid Community Building.
House discussed how the idea for the seminar originated. "A few weeks ago a man got trapped in a grain bin," House recalled.
House is referring to the Feb. 18 incident involving Bruce Robinson, 52, of New Madrid. Robinson was submerged in a soybean-filled grain bin for four hours before being rescued.
"That individual is extremely lucky to be alive," House said. "After that, the New Madrid County University Extension Council met and decided they wanted to do something about grain bin safety, and we wanted to do it now because farmers are about to get in the field."
Among topics to be addressed at the seminar include grain bin safety, earthquake preparedness and agriterrorism.
Frank Wideman, natural resources engineer with University of Missouri Extension, will present information on grain bin safety.
"There's a lot of hazards on the farm, and part of what I'm going to talk about is the fact that we handle commodities in big bulky forms," Wideman said. "In other words, when we talk about grain, we talk about truck loads or grain bins or hundreds of bushels at a time.
He continued: "We've got the equipment that can harvest, store and move those large quantities fairly quickly. That means we've got (bigger) equipment that can gobble up that equipment quickly, and if it can do that, imagine the damage it can do to a person and other things that might get in the way."
The flowing grain offers an additional hazard that other commodities don't offer, Wideman said.
"It's not unlike a whirlpool in the water. The same hazards can occur in grain bins because of a mass of material there and the properties it has while it's moving," Wideman said.
Wideman said he'll also discuss farm safety considerations and policies such as employee and family training.
New Madrid County Emergency Management Director Jerry Lathum is also scheduled to present information on earthquake preparedness.
"Farmers will be a key role in trying to rebuild Southeast Missouri if there's an earthquake because they've got the equipment to help," House said.
New Madrid City Fire Department Chief Jim Harris encourages area farmers to attend the seminar.
"Anyone that works around or is involved in grain storage or moving grain should attend the meeting -- even if just for the information," Harris said. "It would really be helpful in preventing accidents."
Harris was on site for the rescue of Robinson.
"I'm really surprised we haven't had more incidents like this. Every year more grain bins are erected. I can count eight or 10 that have been put up in the last year or two," Harris said.
But whether new to farming or experienced, no one is exempt from being involved in a farm-related accident, House said.
"I've been around this equipment for years," House said. "I respect it, but I don't fear it anymore -- and that's where you get into trouble."
Registration for the seminar isn't required. For more information, contact the New Madrid County Extension office at (573) 748-5531.