Grain Bin Safety
It’s harvest time, and that means more activity at grain bins and facilities across the country. Sadly, experienced workers have already lost their lives in grain bins incidents this year. Grain handling is a high hazard activity where workers can be exposed to numerous serious and life-threatening hazards. These hazards include fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation, suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls from heights and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment. Today’s large grain augers can transfer from two to four times as much grain as augers of the past. Your body can become completely submerged in about 8 seconds, leaving you helpless.
Tis the season we really start to use our grain bins. Everyone is thinking about grain bin safety. Another thing we want to talk about is grain bin failure. Belt conveyors, pellet mills – we think of these as pieces of equipment that need to be cared for. But while a grain bin is a structure, it is also a piece of equipment that needs to be taken care of.
The taller a structure is, the bigger the load is on the grain bin foundation. If the soils beneath the structure aren’t strong enough to hold the load or the foundation wasn’t built on load bearing soil to begin with you may have a problem. When building a grain bin foundation soil samples should be taken to make sure the structure can support the weight of the full structure. Also, if there has been a lot of rain, it can change the consistency of the soil and cause problems as well. It’s wise to watch for cracks in a grain bin foundation and have them checked out when you find them.
Use your grain bin properly. Make sure everyone that will be working with the bin knows how it works. Human error is the leading cause of bin problems and failure. If there is too much lateral pressure from the load in the bin because it has been overloaded failure can occur. That is just one of the things that can happen due to human error. Training and guidance is important to the health of your grain bin, and all of your equipment.
Incidents in grain bins often result in multiple deaths when other workers attempt to rescue their coworkers and become trapped or overcome as well. Pulling out a worker who is trapped in a grain bin requires a great deal of force, much more than is needed to rescue someone from under water. Grain resists the force a rescuer uses when trying to remove a buried worker. Rescue systems must be designed to overcome this resistance. A rescuer’s strength alone is not likely to be enough to rescue a trapped worker.
Grain Safety Facts
- The majority of engulfment’s occur when unloading equipment is running.
- Entanglement in PTO’s, augers, and other moving equipment is a leading cause of injury and death. Never remove safety guards, and keep them in good repair.
- Out-of-condition grain poses one of the greatest risks for entrapment/ engulfment. Crusted grain signals DANGER! You should normally sink about 12” (ankle deep) when walking on corn. If you aren’t sinking, get out! There is a high risk you will break through the crust and become entrapped or engulfed.
- The faster grain flows the faster you become submerged. Grain only needs to remove the body volume of a person to completely cover you. The average body volume is 5-7 cubic feet. It can take as little as 5 seconds to become totally engulfed. An average 10-inch auger unloading at a rate of 4,086 bushels per hour will completely engulf a person in just under 60 seconds.
Please be safe and practice good safety measures when you are harvesting this season. Bickle Insurance Services wants to make sure your safe.
The following are reminders and safety measures to practice while working around grain:
- Keep children out of grain bins, beds and wagons at all times. Grain flow can cover them before anyone realizes what is happening.
- Lock out the control circuit before entering a bin, whether or not grain is flowing. Be especially careful around automatic unloading equipment.
- Have three people involved when you enter a grain bin, and enter with a rope and safety harness. In the case of an accident, it will take two people to lift you out using the equipment.
- Don’t count on someone outside the bin to hear your shouted instructions. Equipment noise may block out your calls for help.
- If you become trapped in a bin of flowing grain with nothing to hold onto but you are still able to walk, stay near the outside wall. Keep walking until the bin is empty or grain flow stops. If you are covered by flowing grain, cup your hands over your mouth, and take short breaths until help arrives.
- If another person becomes submerged in grain, assume he is alive and begin rescue operations immediately. Turn on the fan to move air into the bin. Cut large holes around the bin, approximately 5 ft. up from the base, to empty grain. (If you cut too many holes, the bin may collapse on you.) Use the front-end loader of a tractor, an abrasive saw or an air chisel. A cutting torch is a last resort – it could cause a fire or an explosion from dust and fumigant residue.
- Never attempt a rescue by going into the grain yourself. Call 911. Your local emergency team has the training and equipment to do the job safely.