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How to prevent grain bin accidents on your farm

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Entering a grain bin to remove rotted or clumped grain can quickly become dangerous — even for the most experienced farmer or grain handler. Within seconds, an adult can sink waist-deep and become fully entrapped in flowing grain. Sadly, grain bin accidents claim dozens of lives per year, with deaths spiking in late 2019 due to the wet harvest.

“Each year, grain bin accidents send shockwaves through rural communities. Educating agricultural professionals on the hazards of entering a grain bin, and the safety precautions to take if entry is absolutely necessary, is critical to preventing these unfortunate accidents,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness at Nationwide. “With the fall harvest underway, it’s important for farmers to keep grain quality and storage top of mind. If they can preserve grain quality, they can eliminate the leading reason for entering a bin in the first place.”

For optimum success in storing grain this winter, Nationwide’s Agribusiness Risk Management experts suggest the following considerations:

  1. Complete bin maintenance before harvest — Before harvest begins each season, farmers should inspect their grain storage structures and conduct any maintenance needed. This includes checking for roof leaks, cleaning and removing any spoiled grain, and checking rodent and insect control, aeration systems and unloading systems, stirrators and spreaders.
  2. Clean the grain — Clean grain improves future aeration and helps reduce the potential for mold growth, heating and quality loss. To help keep grain clean of debris, monitor combine adjustments and screenings for items like weed seeds, bees’ wings and chaff.
  3. Make sure grain is dried — To help ensure grain quality, dry grain to recommended storage moisture levels before placing it into the bin. Prior to harvesting, farmers should make sure to have adequate supplies of dryer fuel.
  4. Monitor grain quality regularly — Check binned grain once a week in the fall and when temperatures begin to rise in late winter or early spring. During winter months, grain should be monitored at least every two weeks.

“Our emphasis has always been to encourage a zero-entry mentality unless proper safety measures are followed,” said Liggett. “We need to keep grain bin safety in the hearts and minds of farmers and grain handlers every day of the year.”

If entering a grain bin is absolutely necessary, remember these critical safety tips:

  1. Take the time to understand the conditions of the bin being entered. Monitor air quality before and during the bin entry. Additionally, find out how much grain has been removed from the bin to understand if there may be a dangerous air pocket formed underneath the top level of crusted grain.
  2. Lockout/tagout the power system of the structure to ensure no one can accidentally turn on the unloading system.
  3. Always use a spotter stationed at the outside of the door to call for help, if needed. Under no circumstances should the spotter leave the door or take his or her eyes off the worker inside.
  4. Use a body harness. Anyone entering a bin needs to be tied off and wearing a harness.

Nationwide initiated its year-round Grain Bin Safety advocacy and education program in 2014 to combat accidents and equip fire departments with the proper safety resources needed to respond to entrapments.

Through the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest, Nationwide has awarded life-saving grain rescue tubes and training to 152 fire departments across 29 states. The 2021 Nominate Your Fire Department Contest will open for nominations on January 1, 2021.

For more educational materials or to learn more about Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety advocacy initiative, visit their website.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.