Awareness Can Help Prevent Grain Bin Engulfments, Increase Grain Bin Safety
By: Tracy Turner
COLUMBUS, Ohio – With many grain bins statewide full of stored grain this time of year, safety experts with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences are reminding farmers to be aware of safety precautions to prevent grain engulfments and to have an overall awareness and understanding of grain bin safety.
The issue is significant considering that every year, an average of 26 Ohio farm workers lose their lives to production agriculture, said Dee Jepsen, state safety leader for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
“Flowing grain and grain storage is one of the contributing factors,” she said. “In the past 10 years, we’ve had three deaths to Ohio farmers caused by engulfments in grain bins.
“We’ve had five deaths due to entanglement with equipment including grain bins, silos and silo unloaders. And we’ve had four deaths due to famers being struck by equipment or falling from large heights.”
The ultimate goal, Jepsen said, is to work to prevent farm deaths and injuries, and one way to do that is through education and awareness of grain bin safety. To that end, members of the college’s agriculture safety team are promoting Grain Bin Safety Week Feb. 23-March 1 to raise awareness to help protect farm families and farm workers from farm-related injuries and deaths.
The week-long communication efforts, she said, include daily promotions via social media of grain bin safety-related topics. More information on agriculture safety and Grain Bin Safety Week can be found at http://agsafety.osu.edu.
The college has also recently hired Dave Torsell, program manager for agriculture rescue, who will work with OSU Extension’s grain bin rescue outreach education and awareness program. That includes a focus on the Grain Community Agricultural Rescue Trailer (CART) – Ohio's first grain rescue simulator, which was designed by CFAES students and is used to train first responders, grain industry employees and farm families about the hazards of flowing grain.
Mounted on a 40-foot flatbed trailer, it includes a grain bin, grain leg, gravity wagon and other training essentials.
The Grain CART, which is now being used statewide by the Ohio Fire Academy to train first responders, is also being used in rural communities to raise awareness of grain bin engulfment hazards, Jepsen said.
Grain bin rescues can be classified as confined-space rescues, requiring technical training in various capacities. Rescue personnel have requested specific training in these unconventional rescue situations, where they have limited experience and limited knowledge of the agricultural conditions that exist, she said.
“It is important to understand how fast grain can consume you and how quickly you can become helpless,” Jepsen said. “The main message is prevention: Never enter a grain bin alone, shut off the auger before entering the bin, and always wear a fall protection harness.”
In addition, farmers need to be aware that in Ohio, most farm fatalities are caused by tractors, she said. In fact, there were 95 fatalities due to tractors in Ohio in the past 10 years.
“Every farmer has at least one tractor,” Jepsen said. “Tractors are often working around grain bin operations, so we don’t want to forget about the tractor as one of the most dangerous factors on Ohio farms.”
Some safety tips for growers when working with grain bins and silos include:
• Stay out of the grain bin if possible.
• Never enter a grain bin when the unloading equipment is on, even if the grain isn’t flowing.
• Never enter a grain bin alone. If entry into the bin is necessary, always have at least one observer outside the bin, and make sure all augers are turned off. One person is to enter the bin and the others should remain outside in case an emergency occurs. Always use a body harness with a lifeline secured to the outside of the bin.
• Wear an N-95 respirator when working around the grain, as it keeps 95 percent of the dust and other pollutants from the grain from entering into the worker’s lungs.
• Don't enter a bin that has automatic unloading equipment without first locking out power to the equipment.
• Be cautious around out-of-condition grain, including grain caked to walls. Dangers result from molds, blocked flow, cavities, crusting and grain avalanches.
• Lock doors, gates and discharge chutes of any grain storage units.
• Keep kids out of grain wagons, carts and semi beds.
• Block ladders and egress points (for example a ladder guard) to limit kids’ access.