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Tractor and machinery equipment incident management training

While farmers around the Midwest are preparing for harvest time, groups of men and women around the state of Michigan are being trained to help them if trouble arises. Because of a grant from Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), an organization from Pennsylvania is conducting a series of training courses titled “Managing Agricultural Emergencies” for firefighters, Medical First Responders (MFR) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Emergency Services Rescue Training, Inc. (ESRT) has developed a number of courses covering the variety of dangerous situations that may occur in a rural setting as well as on the farm. 

“There are a low number of calls but they are higher stress and more risks involved,” ESRT Lead Instructor Brian Mattheis said. “These trainings are an exposure to farm machinery hazards.”

At a recent training session held in Bronson, Michigan, he expounded on the importance of the participants learning how to handle the situations safely. Familiarity with farms, machinery, equipment and tools is encouraged with the three hour evening classroom time on Friday with practical applications being applied during the Saturday session.

“The participants are shown a miniature scale model of a farm first thing Saturday morning,” Mattheis said. “Then they are given a real tour of the actual farm where the training is taking place.”

After that, they get down to the business of saving lives. 

Various stations were set up around the farm providing participants with hands-on experiences. Farm machinery and mannequins are used to create accident scenes and the “rescue” team worked together to assess the situation. One setting involved a “person” and a large mowing implement with the person caught under the mower. The group had an operating officer who was in charge and directed the team. The team discussed how to lift the unit, what were the possible injuries, and the best way to go about the job along with other aspects of the scene. While many of the participants were acquainted with one another, they may not have worked together before and learned a different aspect of teamwork.

Other scenes included tipped tractors, emergency situations with drivers in combines, and an accident involving a “person” and a disk plow. 

Several of the participants cited a lack of knowledge concerning farm machinery as to the reason for their involvement. Jackie Supianoski from the neighboring Coldwater Fire Department shared her goal for the day.

“I have had machine rescues but not farm machinery,” Supianoski said. “I want to expand my skills. I am also picking up EMS credits.”

ESRT Instructor Chad Evans also noted the importance of experience besides the farm machinery. The transference allows for the participants to share additional ideas for performing the rescue in a more efficient and safer manner.

“There is some dependence on skills already acquired,” Evans said.

With that in mind, Bronson Fire Department Assistant Chief Larry McConn talked about learning from other firefighters when he attends the various trainings.

“I have attended a number of these and I learn something new every time from fellow firefighters as well as the instructors,” McConn said. “I want more expertise on extricating patients from farm machinery.”

While the majority of the participants were not familiar with farm machinery, there were a few in the crowd who worked with the equipment on a regular basis. Chad Buerle from the Lakeland Fire Department farms but even with his knowledge, he felt he could use more experience.

“It is a lot harder than it looks,” Buerle said as he worked with his team to move a “patient” from a combine cab. Creative measures were considered and sometimes used to safely help the “patient.”

ESRT offers a variety of courses including grain bin safety, toxic gasses, electrical issues, and confined spaces emergencies. MIOSHA will continue to support their efforts with another grant for free training workshops. Lead ESRT Instructor David Smigiel was pleased that they will move their focus to the Upper Peninsula.

“Every county in Michigan has a farming community and sees tractors on the roads so the training is important for everyone,” Smigiel said. “The Upper Peninsula has not received as much attention but they will be appreciating the training in 2022.”

ESRT is a nonprofit company that provides agricultural emergency response training across the United States and Canada. For more information, check out their website at