By Ellen G. Duysen, Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
“Do I really need to go inside this grain bin?” That’s the first question Dan Neenan, Director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), recommends farmers ask before taking the risk of working inside a grain bin. If entering a bin is absolutely necessary, implementing grain bin entry safety practices will reduce the risk of injury or death. “Entrapment happens for a couple of different reasons,” Neenan says. “If the auger is running when you enter the bin, you can be pulled into that grain up to your waist within 15 seconds. In just 30 seconds you can be completely submerged.”
Grain Bin Entry Safety Best Practices
- No one should be alone when they enter a grain bin. For safety purposes, a minimum of two people should be present.
- A key grain bin entry safety step is to lock out and tag out the grain auger power source, disconnecting it and attaching a tag to indicate it cannot be operated until the tag is removed.
Before entering a bin, it’s necessary to evaluate the bin’s air quality. At a minimum, there should be 19.5% oxygen inside the bin. Grain bin dust affects people in different ways, including difficulty breathing. Wearing a mask, equipped with a high efficiency filter, will protect workers from dust and mold.
A fall protection harness and lifeline or boatswain’s chair secured to an adequate anchorage point greatly reduces fall risks. Roof components and bin ladders have proven to be inadequate anchors when dealing with the forces of grain flow.
To reduce possibility of a fire or explosion in the bin due to grain dust, never smoke, weld or grind anything near grain bins.
In the event a grain bin worker becomes trapped, the attendant should not attempt to enter the bin and rescue them. Because the force of flowing grain is so great, it’s not possible to extract someone without proper equipment and assistance.
Farmers with young children need to understand the dangers of having children in the vicinity of grain carts. Children and adults can quickly be engulfed in a loaded grain cart or become entrapped or entangled in the auger as the cart is unloading.
“I encourage parents to never allow their children to play in grain,” Neenan says. “Even though grain play-boxes are often part of an event like an open house at a business, it can give children the idea that playing in grain is fun, when it’s actually a deadly activity.” One of the deadliest practices farmers may adopt is taking a risk and avoiding a tragedy.
The complacency that follows such an experience can lead to disastrous consequences. “It only takes one time to get caught in a risky situation,” Neenan says. “We are especially focused on working with youth in agriculture to overcome that mindset so they can enjoy years of safe farming.”
Additional information about safely entering grain bins can be found at http://www.necasag.org/safetytraining/