Each day, farmers all across the nation work with grain bins. An excellent way to store grain, corn and other crops, farmers rely on them to keep their harvests fresh. Although grain bins are beneficial to farmers, they can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t followed. Each year, farmers, workers and their families are put in dangerous situations by entering grain bins. If the proper safety measures are not taken, the individual can be entrapped.
There are three types of grain entrapment, flowing grain, collapse of a grain bridge and the avalanche of a vertical grain wall.
In flowing grain, the grain moves towards the center during unloading, creating a funnel. Much like quick sand, the person is quickly engulfed and can suffocate. To prevent flowing grain entrapment, warn family, employees and visitors about the dangers of flowing grain. Clearly place warning decals on the bin entrances and gravity wagons to warn people.
The second type of entrapment is the collapse of a grain bridge. A grain bridge forms when the outer layer is moldy or frozen, creating a hard crust. As the grain is unloaded, a hollow cavity forms under the bridge, unbeknown to the farmer or worker. Even the slightest increase in weight can cause the crust to break, trapping the individual. After you unload grain, look for an inverted cone or funnel in the grain. If you don’t see the crop funneling down, a bridge has most likely occurred. To break the bridge use a pole or weighted line while tightly secured to a ladder. DO NOT stand on the surface of the bridge.
The last type of grain entrapment is the avalanche of a vertical grain wall. Bad grain conditions can build up against vertical columns in the grain wall. When workers try to dislodge the grain it breaks free, causing an avalanche. If you must dislodge grain, or another crop, from the vertical columns enter the bin attached to a body harness or lifeline. Slowly dislodge grain as you descend, staying above the vertical column.
Although grain entrapment's are dangerous, they can be prevented. The grain industry reports that over 95% of the cases in the last 40 years have occurred where no lifeline was used. In 65% of incidents there was no attendant or observer to help the worker in the bin.
To further prevent grain entrapment, remember the following:
- Keep your crops well maintained. By preventing them from spoiling, you can prevent many of the above scenarios.
- You can become entrapped in a matter of seconds, NEVER enter the grain bin without the use of a body harness or a lifeline.
- NEVER enter a grain bin alone.
If an incident occurs, stay calm. Turn on the aeration blower (if the bin has one) to increase air flow for the victim. NEVER enter the grain bin without a rescue crew; doing so may put the victim in greater harm. Immediately call a rescue squad and turn off the auger in the grain bin.
If you have any safety tips, we would love to hear from you.
This post was written by Katie Hozan, an intern working in our Claims Department. Katie is a senior majoring in communications and public relations at Ohio Northern University.