By Craig Moorhead
The Caledonia Argus
On the morning of Sunday, September 6, local authorities rushed to the scene of a stave silo which had began to lean ominously towards Highway 27 southeast of Spring Grove.
“Law enforcement and the fire department was out there to block off traffic so nobody was injured when the silo fell,” county engineer Brian Pogodzinski reported. “The Highway Dept had a few staff help get the road cleaned up after the silo fell across the road so it could be reopened to traffic. The landowner cleaned everything else up.”
But even before emergency responders arrived, family members at Gerard Farms called 911 and were blocking traffic to keep drivers safe in case the silo collapsed.
The structure had been fine when it was topped off just before dark the night before with silage, Jeff Gerard said. However, when his brother (Tom) arrived on Sunday morning to begin chores he immediately saw something wrong.
“The silo was starting to tip,” Jeff said. “It was over center. That was at 7:30 in the morning, and it didn’t tip over until about noon...”
Cracking sounds could heard from the silo as it slowly tipped farther towards the roadway. Friends, family, and neighbors gathered to keep an eye on the structure and offer some help in the event of a collapse. Gerard said that when it fell across the highway, he was glad that the silo came all the way down rather than hanging up in some sort of precarious and dangerous position.
“All throughout the morning we could see it moving a little bit at a time,” Jeff told the Argus. “It’s just one of those things where it was our turn for a disaster,” he chuckled. “There were a lot of people helping with the cleanup...”
Finding trucks to haul silage was difficult due the the holiday weekend, but some was saved. But Gerard said that he was just relieved that nobody suffered any injuries during the event.
“In farming, when you’re working with machinery and livestock you accept that there will be dangers,” Jeff noted. “It’s probably a little more risk than a lot of businesses.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics logged 5,250 workplace deaths in the United States in 2018. Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers had the seventh-highest rate of fatal injuries (24.7 per full-time equivalent 100,000 workers). That rate was far above that for all workers (3.5 per 100,000). The most common fatal accidents within the farming job category were incidents related to transportation.
Gerard had some common-sense suggestions when it comes to farm safety.
“You’ve always got to be paying attention to what you’re doing,” he noted. “Just like when you’re driving a car. You need to be paying attention. The world has kind of gotten a little lax with that sort of thing...
Argus: So keep you eyes open, and be aware of your surroundings?
“Yes. We see that kind of thing all the time in nature. Like a turkey in the woods. There will always be something or even somebody out there that wants to make that bird lunch. So if you’re going to survive in this world, you’ve got to pay attention.”