Take Steps Toward Grain Bin Safety

Grain Bin Safety Week provides Ohio farmers with a time to review and practice safety procedures necessary for handling stored grain.

Published on: Feb 24, 2014

As farmers unload grain bins to move their corn and soybeans to market, they need to be aware of safety precautions to prevent grain themselves from becoming engulfed.

The issue is significant considering that every year, an average of 26 Ohio farm workers lose their lives to production agriculture, says Dee Jepsen, state safety leader for Ohio State University Extension.

"Flowing grain and grain storage is one of the contributing factors," she says. "In the past 10 years, we've had three deaths to Ohio farmers caused by engulfments in grain bins.

"We've had five deaths due to entanglement with equipment including grain bins, silos and silo unloaders. And we've had four deaths due to famers being struck by equipment or falling from large heights."

Take Steps Toward Grain Bin Safety
Take Steps Toward Grain Bin Safety

The ultimate goal, Jepsen says, is to work to prevent farm deaths and injuries, and one way to do that is through education and awareness of grain bin safety. To that end, members of the college's agriculture safety team are promoting Grain Bin Safety Week Feb. 23-March 1 to raise awareness to help protect farm families and farm workers from farm-related injuries and deaths.

Grain bin rescues can be classified as confined-space rescues, requiring technical training in various capacities. Rescue personnel have requested specific training in these unconventional rescue situations, where they have limited experience and limited knowledge of the agricultural conditions that exist, she said. 

"It is important to understand how fast grain can consume you and how quickly you can become helpless," Jepsen says. "The main message is prevention: Never enter a grain bin alone, shut off the auger before entering the bin, and always wear a fall protection harness."

Some safety tips for growers when working with grain bins and silos include:
•Stay out of the grain bin if possible.
•Never enter a grain bin when the unloading equipment is on, even if the grain isn't flowing.
•Never enter a grain bin alone. If entry into the bin is necessary, always have at least one observer outside the bin, and make sure all augers are turned off. One person is to enter the bin and the others should remain outside in case an emergency occurs. Always use a body harness with a lifeline secured to the outside of the bin.
•Wear an N-95 respirator when working around the grain, as it keeps 95 percent of the dust and other pollutants from the grain from entering into the worker's lungs.
•Don't enter a bin that has automatic unloading equipment without first locking out power to the equipment.
•Be cautious around out-of-condition grain, including grain caked to walls. Dangers result from molds, blocked flow, cavities, crusting and grain avalanches.
•Lock doors, gates and discharge chutes of any grain storage units.
•Keep kids out of grain wagons, carts and semi beds.
•Block ladders and egress points (for example a ladder guard) to limit kids' access.