Make Grain Bin Safety a Priority

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When work accidents occur on a farm, the consequences are often deadly. While farming dangers are present year-round, harvest time is especially high risk, and the transfer and storage of grain often play a role in that risk level.

Each year, a multitude of farm deaths are attributed to grain bin-related accidents. Accidents can occur in the blink of an eye, with entrapment often taking only seconds.

Safety should be your No. 1 priority when working in or around grain storage facilities, says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer.

“In the rush of harvest, too many people disregard safety practices and suffer severe injury or death while working around grain. They get trapped in grain or tangled in auger flighting,” he says.

Ideally, when good-quality grain is stored at appropriate moisture levels, there are fewer storage problems that necessitate risky actions in a grain bin. However, if you must enter a grain bin, it is recommended you work in two-person, or preferably three-person, teams with the person entering the bin secured with a lifeline.

Grain Bin Safety Tips

North Dakota State University offers the following safety tips:

  • Never enter a grain bin while unloading grain. Flowing grain can bury someone within seconds.
  • Be aware of hidden dangers. Bridged grain may appear solid due to high moisture, the presence of foreign matter, crusted high moisture grain or frozen wet grain. When grain is removed, a void area is formed below the crust. The crusted grain will collapse under your weight and you can be instantly buried.
  • Never try to break a grain bridge or blockage from inside the bin.
  • To further avoid entrapment, break up any vertical walls of grain from the top of the bin, not the bottom.

Grain Bin Rescue

If entrapment does occur in a grain storage facility, there are several steps you should take to improve the likelihood of rescue.

  1. Shut off all augers.
  2. Call 9-1-1.
  3. Ventilate the bin if possible, with outdoor air, if temperatures are moderate.
  4. Cut multiple holes in the bin around the bin perimeter to remove grain.
  5. Use a rescue tube or form a retaining wall around the entrapped person.
  6. Do not attempt to physically pull the entrapped person out of the bin. Doing so is unlikely to be successful and may cause further, permanent injury to the victim.

Contact your state’s Cooperative Extension Service for additional farm safety resources.