Why are grain bins dangerous?
In Indiana you can commonly see metal mountains dotting its rural landscape; these massive metal structures are better known as grain bins.. Though they look peaceful and majestic, these common farm structures have many hidden dangers and hazards that farmers and other personnel working on the farm need to be aware of.
Grain bins and the grain stored inside can present numerous hazards and risks to the farmers and farm hands that work in and around these bins. Grain bin safety is important for anyone working on the farm, even if they do not deal with grain bins directly.
The risks of working in grain bins include engulfment or suffocation when grain is being loaded or unloaded from grain bins, being buried or crushed when flowing grain acts like quicksand or engulfment when grain is “bridged,” a farming accident that occurs when vertical piles collapse unexpectedly and trap farmers or workers.
Since grain bins, grain legs and other grain handling structures rise hundreds of feet in the air, slipping and falling is another ever-present hazard.
According to researchers at Purdue University, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62% during the past 50 years. Learning more about grain bin safety practices can reduce the risk of injury, crushing, entanglement or amputation when dealing with a grain bin.
Mechanical equipment used to move and store grain have gears, pulleys and augers which also present danger. The increased use of automation and technology in grain complex can also present hazards. Machinery may automatically start or be harder to shut down suddenly.
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Top grain bin safety tips
There are several ways to improve grain bin safety. Implementing a Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO) program for your farm for all powered equipment is a great way to increase protection throughout your farm. A LOTO program allows for power sources or controls of equipment to be locked from being started while work or maintenance is taking place. A LOTO program prevents the accidental or automatic starting of equipment while family members or employees are in harm’s way.
Another way to improve safety around grain bins is by prohibiting anyone from entering a grain bin while grain is flowing or being moved. This includes walking down grain to help it flow. If someone must enter a grain bin, ensure that they wear proper grain bin safety equipment including a safety harness with a lifeline.
Make sure the harness is working correctly and that the lifeline is properly secured. Always have an observer stationed outside of the grain bin to monitor anyone inside. No one should ever enter a grain bin alone.
What do you need to do before entering a grain bin?
Ensure all equipment and power sources for grain handling equipment have been shut off, secured or properly locked.
The person entering the grain bin must wear a safety harness and lifeline attached and properly secured, or be seated in a boatswain chair - a device that allows a person to suspend from a rope to perform work in high places.
Wear an appropriate dust mask or respirator when entering grain bins. Grain bins contain substantial amounts of dust and/or mold and present a hazard to workers.
Never enter a grain bin alone.
There must be an observer located outside of the grain bin that is able to monitor the person inside the bin.
Ensure the observer and person in the bin can easily communicate.
Ensure that rescue resources are available if the person does become entrapped.
If a person does become entrapped, call 911 immediately.
What to do in the event of a grain bin entrapment?
Grain bin safety advocacy groups
Here are additional grain bin safety resources:
If you or someone you know owns and operates a grain bin, share these tips with them to ensure that they stay safe.
Interested in purchasing a farm insurance policy to protect you, your farm and your livelihood? Get a free quote online today to start the process.
*The information in this article was compiled from a variety of sources and is intended to provide helpful tips only.