Grain Bin Safety
With less than a month before grain bin safety week (Feb 19th – 25th), with many farms hauling grain to market right now, with me knowing what I do about grain bin safety & being a firefighter trained in Farm-Rescue, I figured it would be a good time to share a few tips to help keep you safe. The following tips are a few of what we figure are the more important ones that should always be followed.
- Children should never be allowed in or on grain bins, especially when loading or unloading.
- NEVER enter a grain bin without stopping all equipment in or on the bin and using the “lock-out /tag-out” procedure to secure it. De-energize all equipment associated with that bin, lock-out all equipment associated with that bin, and make sure only 1 person doing the work can restore power to the equipment.
- NEVER enter a grain bin alone; have at least two other people at the bin to assist in case problems arise. Use at least one observer who can both hear and see you inside the bin. Use a safety harness or safety line when entering the bin.
- Train all employees who must enter a bin. Train them before any bin-entry activities occur and train them to identify any hazards and risks associated with bin-entry.
- Warning decals should be placed at all bin entrances, on all rail cars, truck and trailer boxes used for grain hauling, and on all gravity discharge wagons.
- Respiratory protection must be used. Minimum protection should at least be a N-95 rated face mask. This mask has two straps to hold it firmly to the face and a metal strip over the nose to create a tight seal. A nuisance-dust mask, with a single strap, does not provide the needed protection to prevent the mold spores & dust from being inhaled. Low-level exposure to dust and mold, in the grain, can cause symptoms such as; wheezing, a sore throat, nasal or eye irritation, and congestion. Other symptoms such as headaches, aches, pains, and fever may also develop. Certain types of grain molds produce mycotoxins, which will increase the potential for health hazards from exposure to the mold spores they produce.
- Engulfment can kill, take it seriously. Never walk-down grain. Wet stored grain increases grain-handling hazards & grain suffocation is most likely to occur after entering a bin while it is being unloaded. Becoming engulfed in grain only takes seconds & a person can be buried instantly if bridging of the grain has occurred.
- Oxygen deficient atmospheres kill. Workers entering a bin can be quickly overcome by toxic gases or low oxygen atmospheres and die or suffer serious injuries.
- Talk with your local fire department. Many local fire departments have been trained in the rescue of someone trapped in grain, they have the equipment, knowledge and resources to attempt a rescue. Talk to them, give them a guided tour of your farm, show them what hazards they might encounter on your farm. This gives them a chance to make a pre-plan for your farm, not only for a rescue, but also for any other type of emergency that may arise.
- Safety starts with you! By following proper grain management practices, the probability of you needing to enter a bin is greatly decreased. Core bins, aerate properly, cool & warm grain as needed, monitor the grain weekly to help maintain a cozy environment for your grain and a safer environment for you to enter.
Be safe, and as always, I hope that I never have to see you while I’m wearing my turn-out gear.