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Grain bin safety should be a priority for all farmers and grain handling facilities. Suffocation is the leading cause of death in grain storage bins, according to OSHA. Walking on flowing grain has become a major safety hazard for the agriculture industry as the capacity of augers and conveyors has increased by about 400%. This means your body can become completely submerged in about 8 seconds and a successful emergency rescue is very difficult!

The best prevention is elimination!

Working with unconditioned grain in bins creates many challenges and hazards. Properly conditioning the commodities for storage and having watertight bins is very important for employee safety.  The most common reason for someone to enter into a grain storage bin with product is to deal with crusted grain due to high moisture levels. If the grain flows out of the bin as designed the most common reason for entry is removed! Crusted and bridged grain creates many safety issues and hazards even for trained employees.

  • Crusted grain can plug the discharge section of the bin.
  • Bridged grain along the bin walls can create an avalanche and engulfment hazard.
  • Falling through bridged grain can be associated with many injuries.
  • Walking on flowing grain can lead to an engulfment and or suffocation hazard.
  • Atmospheric hazards can be created due to a lack of oxygen and or the release of H2S gas or fumigants.

If employees must enter a grain storage bin, follow OSHA standards and best practice.

  • Lockout/Tagout all powered equipment associated with the bin and material handling.
  • Do not walk on crusted grain or enter below crusted grain that could be released unexpectedly.
  • Do not enter a bin alone and have an effective means of communication at all times.
  • Provide employees with a body harness and lifeline when entering a bin of product that could create an engulfment/suffocation hazard.
  • Test the air within the bin prior to entry for any atmospheric hazards.
  • Train all employees on the specific hazards associated with grain bin safety.
  • Use a grain bin permit each time entry is needed to ensure and document the precautions taken.
  • Have an emergency action plan for a rescue and do not enter the bin without safety precautions and help.

Tips if trapped in a grain storage bin.

  • If you become trapped in a bin of flowing grain, try to stay near the outside edge of the bin and keep walking until the bin is empty. The material will be moving slower along the edge, making it easier to stay on top of the grain.
  • If you are going to be engulfed by flowing grain, cup your hands over your mouth, and take short breaths until help arrives.
  •  Only attempt a rescue inside a grain storage bin if you are trained, have help and safety measures in place.
  • If someone becomes submerged in grain, cut large holes around the bin approximately 5 feet from the base to empty the bin.

 Please train your employees and have a safe grain handling season!

Resources – Buried Alive – Grain Suffocation Hazards

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