Tips for Grain Bin Safety
As harvest comes into focus, farm owners and employees often work under tight timelines to ensure crops make it safely off the field and into the bin, bunker, bag and silo. Of the many risks facing farmers and farm employees, grain entrapment inside the bin is close to the top of the list.
That’s why it’s so important to train your employees how to safely work in and around grain bins. Take a careful look at these tips to prevent entrapment and engulfment inside grain bins, as well as ways to work safely outside of them during rescue operations.
Looking for more good habits that can make your farm safer? Here are a few more ways to improve safety on the farm.
Grain Bin Safety Starts With Low Moisture Content
These massive storage containers have the very important job of reducing moisture. But if the harvested materials are too wet when they’re loaded into the bin, the risk of crusting and molding increases. And that’s where the trouble frequently starts.
Crusting occurs when moisture or mold accumulates across the top of the load and creates a cavern during the offloading process. As a result, this requires someone to enter the bin’s interior to break up that crust.
Temperature also comes into play as well. Hot days can warm the grain and force it to evaporate moisture too quickly. Again, the outcome can be crusting and molding. So it’s likely you or an employee will have to enter the bin and get the grain flowing again. Doing it safely is key.
Training Employees on Grain Bin Safety
Extremely hot grain temperatures, low oxygen levels, respiratory issues from grain dust and mold exposure all play a factor in making the grain bin unsafe without the proper training and use of personal protection equipment. Train your staff by starting with the basics:
Manage the moisture. Many of the entrapment issues that occur can be avoided by only loading grain when the moisture content is below crusting levels.
Create a bin access rule document. Post a rules document in a common area that specifies all the safety measures and steps required when someone has to enter a bin, like:
- Employees must inform management before entering a grain bin.
- Employee entering the bin must wear a harness and be tied off.
- Two other employees, trained in extracting someone from a bin, must be on site and capable of pulling the employee out if necessary. If this isn’t possible, have one person on the outside of the silo as a lookout. Never enter a grain bin alone.
- Lock out the electrical circuit to the auger before entering the bin’s interior.
- Vent the bin by turning on the fans for a period of time until the air is safe and breathable.
- Employee entering must be wearing a dust mask or respirator.
- Use two way radios to communicate.
- Employees must sign out a bin entry permit (below).
Adopt the bin entry permit method. If an employee is going to be entering the bin, require that they request a bin entry permit first. This permit has to be physically checked out by the employee. Bin access protocols in the above document then go into effect. Print out a laminated copy of these instructions that the team can bring to the bin for reference, and store a copy in a bin access kit (below).
Create a bin access kit. Store all the items needed to get into and out of the bin safely in a bin access kit. Include the following:
- Safety harness
- Lock out lock and key for the bin’s electrical circuit
- Charged two-way radios
- Dust mask or respirator
- Bin access rules
Grain Storage Bin Rescue Process
Having a grain bin safety process in place and training your employees on what to do in an emergency are great ways to make your farm safer.
Make a grain bin rescue sheet. Having a plan in place on how to extract someone entrapped or engulfed in a bin should be a central part of your safety training. Invite your local grain bin extraction first responders out to your farm to help create your rescue sheet. Discuss what measures need to be done so employees understand what to do when. Consider the following:
- Never attempt to rescue alone.
- Call 911 as soon as you notice the emergency.
- Always obey first responder’s instructions.
- Never allow children near grain bins or on grain transport trailers.
Use this as an opportunity to build morale by letting your employees know that you have their back. They’ll appreciate your efforts to ensure their safety. After you’ve competed your grain bin safety training, contact your American Family Insurance agent and explore ways that you can manage loss control and better protect your business from the unexpected. You’ll find that you’re more at ease knowing your employees have the skills to be safe and that everything you’ve worked so hard for is well protected.