The best way to stay safe around a grain bin is to never go inside it. However, that isn’t always feasible. The next best option is to know and diligently practice all the safety principles required to safely enter a grain bin.
Best Practices for Grain Bin Safety
The Grain Handling Safety Coalition’s Best Practice Prevention Strategies for entering a grain bin include:
ALWAYS lockout and tag out unloading equipment before entering a bin.
NEVER work alone in a bin. Have someone watching who can call for help.
ALWAYS WEAR a harness and lifeline. Do NOT “walk down the grain.”
Use fall protection for heights over 4 feet – either restrain or fall arrest systems.
3-4-1 Triangle for ladders – Extend ladder 3 feet above surface; for every foot of height, place ladder 1 foot away from surface.
If it moves, guard it! Use AUTO: Around, Under, Through, Over.
ALWAYS lock out/tag out all equipment before working on it.
Lower augers, pole, ladders, etc. to avoid hitting overhead power lines.
Use lock out/tag out before service or maintenance.
Struck by (falling/thrown objects, vehicles, machines
Wear PPE – hardhat, steel-toed footwear.
Secure overhead objects and transport tools in secure manner.
Block and lock. Block tires and raised beds. Lock vehicles, hydraulics, mechanisms.
Limit all ignition sources and control the fire elements.
Perform maintenance and housekeeping regularly.
Focus on Falls
Falls that occur while farmers work around a grain bin are reported every year. While the injuries are often less serious than those resulting from grain entrapment, fatalities related to grain bin falls do occur. The potential cost of a grain bin fall involves much more than just dollars and cents.
When a fall occurs, monetary expenses are related to medical treatment, lost time, decreased output upon returning to work, damage to equipment and repair and replacement costs. Lawsuits may also be involved if safety regulations weren’t followed or negligence is uncovered. The emotional and psychological costs experienced by the victim and their family may last a lifetime.
More Grain Bin Hazards
Other points of potential injury related to working around a grain bin include entanglement in grain sweeps or augers. If power-take-off shaft guards aren’t in place, it poses significant potential for serious injury or death. Machine guarding and lock out/tag out procedures provide the best prevention for these kinds of hazards.
Common machine hazards include pinch points, wrap points, pull-in points and shear/cutting points. These hazards are found in motors, pulleys, belts, and gears. They’re also in an elevator leg drive and elevator leg belt, auger drive motors and sliding doors for bins.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate for working around a grain bin includes earplugs or earmuffs, safety glasses or goggles, face shields, hard hats, safety shoes or rubber boots, gloves, vests and respirators. Filtering face pieces, full and half face mask respirators with filters or canisters, self-contained breathing apparatus, or powered air respirators.
Find more grain handling resources and training options at the Grain Handling Safety Coalition site, www.grainsafety.org.
Loretta Sorensen writes from her home in southeast South Dakota, where she regularly develops agricultural safety and health articles for the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Connect with Loretta on Facebook and Twitter.
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