Keeping grain in proper condition is the first step in preventing entrapment in flowing grain. Many grain entrapments have occurred when a person went into a bin to break apart moldy or crusted grains. Good bin management will help prevent moldy grains and spoilage.
Enter a bin only if absolutely necessary. Instruct family members, especially children, and employees on the hazards of entering grain bins and dangers in flowing grain. Flowing grain is also a hazard with gravity wagons.
Use a pole to break up grain bridges from outside the bin. If you have hauled out grain and the grain surface is at the same level, this is an indicator that there’s a grain bridge. You should see a funnel shape on the grain surface after grain has been removed. The hollow cavity under a grain bridge will be equal to the volume of grain that has been removed. A grain bridge will not support a person’s weight. The pole should be attached to a rope tied to the outside of the bin. If you drop the pole, it can be retrieved using the rope and save you from entering the bin.
If you need to enter a bin:
- Lockout/tag-out power to augers or other powered equipment before entering bin. If augers are operating, the flowing grain will pull you down in a matter of seconds.
- Use proper PPE as air quality may be reduced by mold and dust. Use a NIOSH approved dust respirator to prevent exposure to high levels of dusts or molds. If the grain has become moldy, the molds will produce carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide can displace the oxygen in the air causing an oxygen deficient atmosphere. Use a gas monitor to test oxygen levels before entering bin.
- Use a body harness and safety line secured to the outside of the bin when entering. An anchor point and safety line should be able to hold 5,000 pounds of force. The body harness and safety line may not prevent you from being caught in flowing grain. It will help rescuers locate you and the body harness gives rescuers some place to attach retrieval systems.
- Have at least two trained observers during grain bin entry. Discuss communication plans and actions to take in case you become entrapped in flowing grain. Instruct them to not enter to rescue but to call for rescue assistance.
- Use hand signals to communicate. Other communication devices may not work inside a bin.
- Work from top to bottom when cleaning grain bin walls. Any grain piled higher than your head has the potential to collapse and avalanche down on top of you.
- Check that an entry permit has been issued and safety precautions have been taken to make a safe entry.
If rescue is required:
- Shut off all grain-moving machinery. It is important to stop the flow of grain.
- Contact the emergency rescue service or local fire department.
- If possible, ventilate the bin using the drying fan without activating the heat source.