US: University, grain organization team up to improve grain, feed sector training

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/SafakOguz
© iStock/SafakOguz
Kansas State University and the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) are working together to build and offer a hands-on grain training and safety program, says program expert.

In addition to online classwork, the Hands-On Training (HOT) program would offer a series of training sessions focused on improving participants’ understanding or habits regarding working with grain equipment, said Jay Bergland, continuing education programs leader with GEAPS. Courses in the program will be approved as continuing education units.

“The HOT Program is going to focus on safely operating and maintaining conveying equipment commonly used in the industry,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “The idea got started by many of our members expressing an interest in a program like this that was not just reviewing a textbook or manual – and is able to go into more detail than what companies might be able to do at their own facilities.”

The program has been in the works for several years, he said. “We are close to securing all the equipment that we need for the program – next steps will be securing funding for startup expenses and finalizing the curriculum,”​ he added.

The goal of the program is to improve participant understanding of equipment and to improve the safe handling of feed grain and grain handling equipment, said Bergland.

“Safety will be a big emphasis throughout the entire program,” ​he said. “We want students to leave the training having gained valuable experience and perspectives [and] able to bring things back to their facility that they maybe weren’t doing before, or not doing as well as they could have.”

Program details

The two-part program is set to include an online study component completed prior to the hands-on section, said Bergland. The online portion is designed to provide a background for the second portion of the class.

“The online portion will take place prior to students attending the in person training and is designed for two main objectives,” ​he said. “First, make sure everyone that is attending is relatively on-the-same-page with what to expect from the sessions and be as prepared as possible. Second, safety is not only going to be emphasized during the actual program, [but] will also be a big piece [and] focus on the online segment.”

The second stage of the course, or the hands-on portion, is open to anyone who registers, he said. But it is being designed to be useful to both new and more seasoned employees.

“Students will receive a hands-on training experience that will be best-in-class for operation, maintenance and safety of conveying equipment,”​ he said. “Including travel and session time, students should expect the program to last five days, Monday-Friday.”

Program participants will have the opportunity to train with multiple pieces of common equipment from the feed and grain industry, said Bergland. These include items like a bin sweep, chain and incline conveyers, open and enclosed belt conveyers, a bucket elevator and multiple types of distributors.

On-going efforts

The program is still being completed, said Bergland. Program courses are expected to start being offered next fall (autumn).

Current efforts include finishing the curriculum needed and selecting program instructors, he said.

Most of the equipment needed for the program has been collected, he said. However, efforts are still underway to finish securing the necessary funding.

“To be able to offer the first sessions, we are looking for around $50,000-$65,000,” ​he said. “These funds would go towards equipment installation, electrical work and anything else that doesn’t get directly donated. I’m very happy to share that we have already received upwards of $300,000 in donated equipment.”​ 

Grain safety statistics

A report​ released in February from Perdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program tracked the number of injures and fatalities at grain facilities including from grain storage and handling.

For 2015, the most recent year covered, there were 47 non-fatal and fatal incidents in confined spaces, according to the report. More than half of the cases dealt with grain entrapment and 25 resulted in fatalities.

Total cases running from 1962 to 2015 include 1,156 deaths out of 1,873 reported incidents, according to the report. However, not all incidents are represented as there are exemptions regarding who needs to report.

“There is no public record of these incidents due to the fact that there is no comprehensive or mandatory incident/injury reporting systems for most of agriculture; in addition, there has been reluctance on the part of some victims and employers to report non-fatal incidents,”​ said report authors. “Based upon prior research, it is estimated that the documented annual cases represent approximately 70% of the total cases that have actually occurred annually in the Corn Belt.”

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