As bushels roll in, make sure you and your employees are staying safe in, around and near grain bins. Because of their height, pressure from grain and other factors, grain bins can cause severe injury and even death if proper safety procedures aren’t followed.
Suffocation is the leading cause of death in grain storage bins, according to OSHA. 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, consider the lockout, tagout method
- 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 them for emergency exits
- Keep children out of bins
Be especially mindful of crusting as winter approaches.
“If you don’t have proper aeration you can get crusting at the top of the bin,” says Nathan Luff, owner of Luffland Builders, a Sukup manufacturer based in Bates City, Mo. “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. Note however, the safest method is to avoid entering the bin altogether.