Tragedy strikes farmer in the blink of an eye

Four years ago Jack Maloney, Brownsburg, and his son, Peter, and other helpers were working on their grain leg. Their mission was to switch from handling corn to binning soybeans.

At the time the master control panel was set up like it’s set up on many farms. A certain sequencing of events, such as timing of a series of augers to turn on or off, is on automatic control. If one auger turns on, other augers also turn on.

Key Points

• Accidents can happen in one push of a button.

• Don’t take safety for granted after years with no accidents.

• Lock-out tags on control boxes reduce chances of accident.


An employee turned on an auger. Almost instantly, he heard screams. What he didn’t know was that Jack was still working on the grain leg. When the employee pushed the button, the first auger kicked on, automatically kicking on the auger Jack was working on.

Jack’s arm was badly mangled. Peter fashioned a tourniquet out of his belt and calmed his dad until help arrived. Still, a push of a button changed Jack’s life forever.

Life goes on

Jack was fitted with a prosthetic arm. Employees made adjustments on equipment so he can still operate machinery.

“What we really miss is that he can’t climb bins anymore,” Peter says.

Jack is open about the accident. In fact, at the farm management tour on his farm, he requested a mini-tour on grain system safety and accident prevention, hoping to spare others what he went through.

“We always practiced safety, and there wasn’t an accident on this farm in 40 years,” Peter says. “You need to keep safety in the back of your mind all the time you’re working around grain or machinery.”

Lock control box for safety

The Maloney family installed what’s known in the industry as a lock-out tag on the master control box. The purpose is to prevent anyone from turning on an auger while someone else is in the center working.

The theory is that if Employee A doesn’t know what Employee B is doing and pushes a button, the automatic sequence might turn on the auger that Employee B is fixing. That’s what happened to Maloney. The tag makes it impossible for the second employee to operate the board if someone else has already activated the lock.

There is a padlock and set of keys, Peter Maloney explains. Employee A locks the padlock and takes the key. Employee B is locked out of that part of the system. If Employee B wants to work on a different section, he installs a second padlock, and takes the key. The keys aren’t the same. The system won’t operate independently until each person who attached a padlock removes their padlock.

“It should be impossible for anyone to start up an auger or fan without knowing someone else is around,” explains Bill Field, Purdue University safety specialist. “The locks are inexpensive and can prevent injuries.”

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Install lock-out tag: This simple, inexpensive device prevents accidents.

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Take safety seriously: “We went through our system
and added more safety measures after Dad’s accident,” Peter Maloney says.

This article published in the August, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.