GREENSBORO, N.C. — Syngenta is sharing information from its
partners in the field that can help save lives during the harvest season.
Flowing grain inside a grain storage bin can engulf a grown
man in just 20 seconds. That fact alone helps explain why every year, people are
hurt — and some killed — in grain bin accidents.
Avoiding grain bin entrapment requires awareness of the
dangers, as well as training and clear safety procedures to follow in case of
“When you enter a bin, there are huge potential
consequences,” said Wayne Stigge, technical trainer for CHS, County Operations
Division, in Pasco, Wash. “People think they’ll go in, get something loose and
then get back out. But once grain starts flowing, it’s so hard to get out of the
Grain bin parts — the auger, fans and grain vacuums — can
cause injury and death, and accidents in grain bins are especially challenging
because reaching the victim is difficult for rescuers. The average rescue time
is more than three hours.
The events of 2010 — with 51 grain bin accidents, the worst
year on record — created greater awareness of the dangers grain bins can pose.
Grain condition contributed to the numbers: It was a wet year, and crops had
high moisture content.
Managing grain quality, Stigge said, can lower the risk of
grain bin problems because dry grain flows better.
An employee at Heartland Co-op in West Des Moines, Iowa,
experienced the danger of flowing grain firsthand when he was trapped and buried
to his waist two years ago.
“Fortunately, our people were able to get him out,” said
Bill Chizek, Heartland’s director of safety and compliance.
Heartland has taken several steps to minimize potential
problems. Chizek trains Heartland’s employees once or twice a year on grain bin
The company also has upgraded a lot of sweep augers so
workers don’t have to be in the bins to make them work and has invested in a new
vacuum system to get all the grain out.
Chizek emphasized that no one should ever enter a bin with a
sweep augur running. Following lock-out and tag-out procedures helps ensure that
Air monitoring is another important safety precaution, noted
Dan Neenan, director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.
“An employee entering a bin should clip the monitoring
device to his or her harness so it goes with the employee down where the air
could be dangerous,” he said.
Bridging and crusting grain are two more potential causes of
disasters: A person goes in to knock down grain crusted on the bin’s side and
causes an avalanche, or he falls into a void when a grain bridge — a hard,
crusty surface formed by moldy or frozen grain — collapses.
A more recent development is texting while using a grain
“Workers stick the hose at their feet while they answer a
text, and it sucks the grain out from under their feet,” Neenan said.
For times when someone must enter a bin, NECAS has developed
training for the proper procedures. Businesses that pay for their trainers’
travel expenses can receive that instruction free, Neenan said.
It’s not just employees who need training in rescues. Making
sure the local fire department is trained properly is also critical, Stigge
Because every facility — and even every bin — presents a
different scenario for rescuers, it’s a good idea to have all potential rescue
workers familiar with the specifics.
“‘It can’t happen to me’ — we’ve got to end that thinking,”
Neenan said. “The wrong decision could end your life.”