November 20, 2015
Protect Yourself: Stored Grain Safety
Two weeks ago I talked about managing moisture and temperature levels in stored grain to protect and maintain the quality put into the bin. While it is important to protect grain quality, it is even more important to protect ourselves and others that might be working with or around on-farm stored grain.
Today’s grain handling equipment moves grain much faster and more efficiently. But it also creates situations where a person could become trapped or covered with grain more quickly. The following are reminders and safety guidelines to follow when working around grain:
1. Keep children out of grain bins, grain carts, or truck and semi beds at all times. Grain flow can cover them before anyone realizes what happened
2. Lock out the control circuit to any augers or unlading conveyors before entering a bin. Never enter a bin when grain is being unloaded because flowing grain acts like quicksand and can pull a person under the grain surface or into augers or conveyors causing suffocation or injury.
3. Tie a permanent life-line in the bin for a person trapped in the grain to grab. Hang a rope from the center of the bin with knots tied every few feet. It should be long enough to almost reach the floor, but short enough so it doesn’t get in augers or conveyors
4. A person entering a grain bin wearing a safety harness and rope should be accompanied by two other people. In case of an accident, it will take two people to lift the person out using the safety line. If two people can’t lift the victim out, do not use pulleys or a block and tackle which could cause serious injury.
5. Don’t count on someone outside the bin to be able to hear someone inside the bin. Equipment noise may block out or grain can muffle calls for help.
6. If trapped in a bin of flowing grain with nothing to hold onto, stay near or move towards the outside wall if you can move. If you are covered by flowing grain, cup your hands over your mouth, and take short breaths until help arrives.
7. If another person becomes submerged in grain, assume he or she is alive and begin rescue actions immediately. Turn on the fan to move air through the grain and around the victim, then call 911. NEVER attempt a rescue by going into the grain yourself. Many fire departments have specialized equipment and have been trained in grain bin rescue.
8. If the arrival of rescue personnel will be delayed, cut large U-shaped or V-shaped holes around the bin, about five feet up from the base, to empty grain. It is important to do this uniformly around the bin to avoid it buckling and collapsing. Two holes on opposite sides of the bin are a minimum. Three or four holes uniformly spaced are even better. Make a cut about 30 to 40 inches across between the bolt lines of a single sheet. Do not cut across vertical or horizontal bin sheet joints. Use a front-end loader on a tractor, an abrasive saw, or an air chisel. A cutting torch should be avoided, or used only as a last resort, as it has the potential to cause a fire or an explosion from the grain dust.
9. Spoiled or wet grain can create a crust just under the grain surface. A cavity under the crust can be created when grain is removed from the bin. A person is at great risk if they walk on the surface, the crust breaks, and they plunge into flowing grain below. If grain has bridged over the top of the bin or along the sidewalls, do NOT enter the bin. Break these up from the entry door using a board, pole or piece of conduit. If using a metal pole or conduit, beware of overhead power lines.
10. Finally, secure grain storage areas to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering bins. This could also protect the grain from being stolen, especially from remote bins not located on a farmstead.
For more information on grain bin safety, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.