Farming is risky business—both financially and physically. As you empty grain bins this year, make sure you’re putting safety first to protect yourself and others involved in your operation.
This winter, be especially mindful of crusting.
“If you don’t have proper aeration you can get crusting at the top of the bin,” says Nathan Luff, of Missouri-based Luffland Industries. “It’ll make the top of the bin look full even if there’s little beneath it.”
If you or anyone in your operation enters a bin with crusting, they could quickly find themselves in a dangerous situation.
“You may think you are standing on a firm surface, but you’re not, and by the time you realize this, you’re sinking,” says Willard Downs, University of Missouri Extension specialist, in a previous news release.
The issue is exacerbated when augers start moving grain beneath the crust, increasing the odds you could break through. Should you find yourself trapped, experts recommend you cup your hands around your mouth and nose. Creating this air pocket might provide you with enough time to be rescued. If you can, move to the edge of the bin and move in a spiral around the edge until the bin is empty. Try to get inside the bin’s ladder.
“Suffocation is the leading cause of death in grain storage bins,” OSHA says. Moving grain can act like quicksand and quickly bury anyone inside, cutting off access to oxygen.
If you or someone your near gets caught in a bin, do not attempt a rescue alone. Turn off the auger or conveyor belt and increase ventilation by turning on fans, University of Missouri recommends.
OSHA, Extension and other experts offer the following 10 tips to avoid grain bin entrapments:
- Develop a “zero entry” mentality—stay out of the bin if possible
- If you do have to check grain, don’t go alone
- Check lockout control circuit devices on auger before entering a grain bin
- Communicate and let others know if you’re entering the bin so augers stay off
- Break up crusted grain with a long pole from outside the bin
- Wear a safety harness and have someone watching
- Run ventilation equipment to release toxic fumes prior to entry
- Wear a dust filter or respirator
- Install ladders inside grain bins and paint bright stripes on it for emergency exit
- Keep children out of bins
Prioritize safety to avoid accidents in grain bins. “It can be a really scary situation,” Luff says.