July 13, 2010
Two farmworking teens killed in silo; media is mystified
From Michigan, we learn the tragic news of the silo-related deaths of two teens on a farm. Victor Perez, 18, was a recent high school graduate who had worked on the farm for about 4 years. His co-worker Francisco Mendez Martinez, 17, had been on the job for about a month.
News reports are thin and shrouded in mystery. One refers to the fatalities as a “mishap” (talk about understatement) and quotes a local farmworker as saying that the teens “weren’t doing something particularly dangerous and they knew how to do it.” (Apparently wrong on both counts). Other stories portray this as “just a tragic accident” with authorities quoted as saying they might never be sure what happened because there were no witnesses.
We should really expect better reporting from media whose beat includes farm country. And if the news reports are correct, there is at least one other local farm worker who needs to be alerted to silo dangers and the quoted sheriff needs to take an EMT refresher course.
A cursory Google search on silo deaths will show that there’s nothing particularly mysterious about this “mishap” – unsupervised teen workers + confined space + silos + molasses storage – all should trigger red lights. The danger posed to teens of confined spaces in agriculture should be well known. Instead of breathless reporting about mysterious tragedies (see also “freak accidents“), media could do a huge service to local communities if they did a little research and used such horrific events as a springboard to educate people about a) safety for a high-risk group, teen workers and b) farm worker accident prevention.
The hazards associated with silos are well-recognized. One cited in this link might have been a description of the recent that killed the teens:
The typical scenario involves a worker entering an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere and collapsing. Co-workers notice the collapsed worker and enter the same atmosphere and attempt a rescue; however, if they do not use proper precautions (respirators, ventilator fans, etc.), they also collapse.
Confined Space Hazards a Threat to Farmers
Dangerous Gases and Fires Can Make Silos Death Traps
Silo Gas Dangers
Silo Gas Dangers – from Farm Safety
Preventing Deaths of Farm Workers in Manure Pits
Confined Space Hazards
OSHA: Confined Space
Parental Alert: 2010’s Five Worst Teen Jobs