In the ten-year period from 2009 to 2018 Ohio had 9 fatalities in grain handling and grain storage facilities. Five of these fatalities were from suffocation and 2 were from falls from the structure, while the others involved auger entanglements. Purdue University reported 38 grain entrapments across the U.S. in 2019. Twenty-three of these entrapments resulted in a fatality.
February 21st begins Nationwide Insurance Grain Bin Safety Week. Being the season when dry grains are being hauled to market and bins are being emptied, it is appropriate to provide winter safety reminders for the primary concerns at your on-farm storage facilities.
For respiratory protection, an N95 mask as a minimum is recommended. These items do what they are designed to do – keep 95% of the respirable grain dust from entering your nose and mouth. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it tough for some farms to find a supply of N-95’s, but as essential workers, farmers need to access and wear this protection while at working at their bins. The N-95 will also help prevent inhalation of any vomitoxins present within the corn. Another respirator that may be easier to find is the P-100. These respirators have a longer life-span than the N-95’s and are more readily available. To protect against vomitoxins and other molds, use a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cartridge with your P-100.
Entrapments or suffocation may occur in different ways. In flowing grain, the farmer may be drawn down into the funnel and become entrapped. Grain may also crust or bridge on the top, leaving a void underneath. When this “bridged grain” collapses under the weight of the workers, they fall through and are covered in a matter of seconds. Grain may also accumulate on the side of the bin. This is particularly noticed in bins with moldy grain. As workers try to dislodge the hanging material, they can be crushed like an avalanche.
Avoiding entrapment starts with having a plan. It is recommended that all work be performed outside the bin – this eliminates the risk of entrapment. If a worker must enter a storage bin, never enter alone. Always have a second person remaining outside the point of entry. Prior to entry, turn off any electrical equipment and lock it out so that it cannot re-start while workers are inside. Consider installing a ladder on the inside of the bin to facilitate an emergency exit.
Consult with your local first responder units. It is a good idea to keep your local first responders involved with your operation. Invite them out for a tour and discuss resources available and potential scenarios that may evolve. Also talk to your fire and EMS units about their capabilities to respond to a grain bin emergency. Ask if they have rescue tubes available (even through mutual aid) if needed for an entrapment situation; and have they received training to know how to work together during an intense on-farm emergency. Training is available for Ohio first responders in several areas. You can contact the State Fire Academy or the OSU Agricultural Safety Program for options you may have in your geographic location.
Due to the hazardous nature of stored grain, always keep children away from storage bins, wagons, and trucks.
If you would like additional information or the opportunity to participate in Grain Bin Safety Week, please go to http://mynsightonline.com/grain-bin-safety. Here you will find videos of real-life entrapment incidents and rescue training along with numerous webinars and articles to assist training employees or refreshing veteran workers on the farm.