December 08, 2022

Don’t become a statistic: Put grain-bin safety first

WAVELAND, Ind. — Anita Howard, mother of a grain entrapment victim, is on a mission to spread safety awareness.

The best way to do so, she said, is to talk about safety.

“Wives need to remind their husbands, parents need to talk to their kids and employers need to discuss it with their employees often,” said Howard during a Movin’ the Pile podcast. “Communication is key.”

In 2020, there were a total of 64 agricultural confined space cases documented in the United States, according to a paper published by Purdue University researchers.

This included 35 grain entrapments, seven falls into or from grain storage structures, four asphyxiations due to deficient oxygen levels or toxic environments and 12 equipment entanglements.

That means grain entrapments accounted for over half of all documented cases in 2020.

Stop And Think

If the grain won’t flow, the issue at hand is to remove the grain without putting anyone at risk of entrapment.

Here are four recommendations that may not always be the easiest or most profitable, but will keep everyone safe.

1. Never enter a bin where there is evidence of crusting on the surface or within the grain mass. If grain has been removed from the structure and the surface has not flowed toward the outlet — stay out. This is a clear sign that a large void has formed over the outlet.

2. If there are any signs that the grain is going out-of-condition, or has already done so, it needs to be moved immediately. The condition of the grain will not improve if left in storage, and will only worsen as warm weather arrives, which causes biological and insect activity to increase.

3. Perform all observations or unplugging efforts from outside the bin, at the top access hatch. Again, if there is evidence of crusting, spoilage, or excessive heating — stay out. The risk is too great. In some cases, long pipes, rebar, or other probes can be inserted into the grain mass to break up crusted grain or trash that is plugging the outlet. Watch out for overhead power lines when handling these long probes.

4. If the grain has become so crusted, or the floor outlets become plugged, preventing grain removal according to the bin manufacturer’s recommendations, contact a professional grain salvage service that has the experience and equipment to break up and remove out of-condition grain. These services are expensive, but can save lives and salvage some of the grain.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor