CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As the size of grain bins has increased over time, the risk of injury has increased, as well.

Robert Aherin, University of Illinois Extension specialist, shared advice about grain bin entry during a webinar. Aherin is a co-founder of the Grain Handling Safety Coalition.

“Today we have a little over 13 billion bushels of on-farm storage capacity in our country,” he said. “Commercial elevators have around 11 billion bushel capacity.

“Corn production has increased approximately 40 percent in the past 20 years, so we have dramatically increased the amount of grain we can store. In response, we’ve developed much larger bins. We’ve increased the size and power of our auger systems.

“Because of the size and capacity of these bins, the risks are significantly increased due to falls, grain entrapment, auger entanglement and more.”

It’s important to have a plan before entering a grain bin. Farmers should train employees to make sure everyone understands that plan.

Aherin shared five tips to help farmers safely enter grain bins:

1. Have a permit or checklist. “If you’re following OSHA regulations or certain confined-space regulations, you must have a permit,” Aherin said. “If you’re following the Grain Safety Standard, you don’t need a permit, but you need a checklist. For most farmers, they usually have a checklist. Make sure you’re not forgetting something.”

2. Lock-out, tag-out. “You need to lock out and tag out all of the controls for any machinery, such as loading augers that could come on,” Aherin said.

3. Check the atmosphere. “If the grain is in bad condition, you’ll need to check the atmosphere to make sure the air is of good quality: there’s adequate oxygen, there’s not any harmful gas,” Aherin said.

4. Wear a lifeline. “Workers need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including a lifeline, harnesses, dust respirators and hearing protection, depending on the area,” Aherin said.

5. Never enter a grain bin alone. “You should always have an observer,” Aherin said. “This can be difficult when you have few employees. But we’ve lost many people because something happened and no one was there to get help.”

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Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.


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