The tragedy makes news headlines repeatedly: People are entrapped in a grain bin with only seconds to react before they are engulfed and suffocated.
A death in the work force of a farm operation can be devastating both to the family and the operation. We at Farmers Union Agency believe prevention and education are key in these situations, and have provided you this information from our company partner, Secura Insurance.
How Grain Bins Trap People
Scenario 1: A worker enters the top of a grain bin, and the auger begins running to unload the grain.
- Within five seconds the worker becomes trapped.
- The flowing grain behaves like quick sand, pulling the worker down.
- The worker is completely covered by grain after 22 seconds.
Scenario 2: Unbeknownst to him, a worker stands on a “bridge” formed by clumped grain due to moisture or mold.
- The worker becomes buried when the pocket of space under the firm layer of grain collapses.
- The worker is trapped when grain unloading begins.
Scenario 3: A worker standing on the floor is attempting to dislodge grain that’s accumulated on the side of the bin.
- The pile of grain collapses onto the worker.
Scenario 4: Without warning, a bin can develop hazardous atmosphere or a lack of oxygen.
Preventing Grain Bin Suffocation
Considering it’s one of the top causes of farm deaths, it’s hard to believe grain storage bin suffocation is easily preventable. But it is, as long as employers:
- Turn off and disconnect, lockout and tag, or block off all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic equipment that presents a danger. Do not empty or move grain into or out of the bin while workers are inside.
- Do not allow walking down grain to make it flow.
- Prohibit entry onto or below a bridging condition, or where grain is built up on the side of the bin.
- Provide workers entering a bin from a level at or above stored grain, or walking or standing on stored grain with a body harness connected to a lifeline or boatswain’s chair. Make sure the lifeline is long enough to prevent a worker from sinking more than waist-deep in grain.
- Give workers rescue equipment specifically for rescue from the bin.
- Station an observer who is equipped to provide assistance and perform a rescue outside the bin. Make sure the observer and workers who enter the bin maintain communication.
- Test the air within a bin for oxygen content and the presence of hazardous gases before entering.
- Obtain a permit each time a worker enters a bin. The exception is if the employer will be present during the entire operation. The permit must certify that before workers enter the bin, they met the precautions above.
This information was provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
You can find a local Farmers Union Agent to receive a comprehensive quote on your farm operations in your area here.