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Silo death prompts concerns about farmer safety across Central Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recorded a total of 39 farm and agricultural-related fatalities in 2020.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — According to data from Penn State Agriculture Health & Safety, farm and agriculture-related communities have been impacted in numerous ways due to an increasing demand on the industry across central Pennsylvania. 

One of those ways seems to be an increased number of fatal incidents like the one in Cumberland County on Monday, May 2. 

Pennsylvania recorded a total of 39 farm and agricultural-related fatalities in 2020, which is a significant increase in fatalities from the previous five-year average.

The rise is prompting concern from people like Bill Zeiders, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

"Farms are dangerous places," Zeiders explained. He said the Pa. Farm Bureau stresses the importance of safety in agriculture-related fields. 

"We hold events, we put out information as much as we can that encourages good, safe practices on farms," he said.  "...We also partner with Nationwide for Grain Bin Safety Week, which encourages safe practices...and part of that program is getting what are called 'grain bin rescue tubes' to fire departments in different rural areas."

Many local fire departments, like the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire, support initiatives with rural partners to keep farms safe.

Brent Hill, a firefighter with the Harrisburg Bureau, says that these partnerships are an important aspect of their job due to the many farms around central Pennsylvania. 

Farm and silo rescue missions in particular, Hill said, can be extremely dangerous and require specific tools and techniques.

“A lot of times with a silo, you can almost think of it like a trench because trenches collapse [with] loose soil," Hill explained. "You’re working in a confined space, and then the way they’re shaped – a lot of times you’re dealing with a rope rescue and rope access, so all these disciplines kind of overlap."

However, even with training and education, Zeiders knows the results could turn tragic if proper safety protocols aren’t followed by farms.

"This kind of thing can happen anytime...and that sometimes can be a fatal decision," said Zeiders. 

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