Grain Bin Safety
(Photo by C.S. Hagen used with permission of The Forum).
People often need to work in and around grain bins and other storage and enclosed facilities. Many times, this happens when there is grain stored in these facilities, which makes the job a greater hazard for the people doing the work. These tasks may include maintenance on the equipment, cleaning the equipment, and dealing with grain has gone out of condition and is stuck in the bin.
Here are a few tips to stay safe while working in and around these structures.
First, decide if the task is necessary now while there is still grain in the structure. Can the maintenance be done later when the structure is empty?
If the work is needed now, plan how to safely go about carrying out the tasks.
Let everyone on the farm know that there will be people working around the grain storage structures and that no one is to start any equipment at the site.
Assemble a team that will work on these tasks and assign each person their duties. Working in these structures is at minimum a two- to three-person job. At least one person needs to be outside the bin and to be able to hear the individual inside the bin. Station one individual on top of the bin who can always see the person in the bin. This individual can react quickly if something goes wrong. If a third person is on the ground, that person can call 911 and get help. They can direct emergency personnel when they get to the location and give them a rundown of what has taken place. The person on top of the bin stays there, watching the person and communicating with the person in the bin.
For more information on the hazards of flowing grain and how to prevent a grain entrapment situation, visit Caught in the Grain!
Watch this video from the National Corn Growers Association and National Grain and Feed Foundation for more tips for avoiding grain bin entrapment.
Prior to entering the enclosure, run the aeration system and open the top of the bin for at least an hour to help remove any toxic gas levels.
Before entering, take a gas reading to make sure the gas levels are safe.
When the team is ready to go to work, tag out and lock out all grain handling equipment. This helps prevent accidental operation of this equipment while working inside.
The person entering the enclosure needs to be in a safety harness that is secured to the outside of the bin.
Grain handling in bins can become routine and when a worker is in a hurry an accident can happen. Sadly, year after year, people who enter grain bins are trapped and engulfed in grain resulting in suffocation. The number of grain bin fatalities can be greatly reduced if farmers and their workers get proper training and follow grain bin safety procedures in the video below. This is a longer, more detailed version of the National Corn Growers Association and National Grain and Feed Foundation video referenced above.