Raising awareness on the importance of grain bin safety

There are many safety precautions to take with storing and unloading grain. As part of National Farm Safety and Health Week, Jeff Franklin reports on the proper bin management techniques.

“On average, about half the people that are caught in grain, don’t come out alive.”

That alarming message is from University of Kentucky ag engineer Sam McNeill, who wants to raise awareness this spring about the importance of working in and around grain bins. Already this year, seven U.S. producers, including one in Kentucky, have lost their lives in grain entrapment, falls, and equipment-related incidents on the farm.

“There have been seven deaths recorded thus far in the U.S., we’ve had one in Kentucky, and that’s the only one I’ve heard of in several years... I wanted to at least let agents know sources are out there, we may have more problems but I want to try to avoid any more fatalities,” McNeil states.

Spoiled grain often develops large clumps that stick together either on the grain surface, in the center of the bin, and/or on the bin wall, clogging outlets and not emptying as it should. A late planting last year lead to a late harvest and some of the grain did not dry down like it should, with 20 percent moisture in bins, particularly soybeans.

McNeil says that under-drying of the grain is going to cause storage problems.

“If it is under dried it is not going to store well and you are going to have flow problems, likely to have flow problems, especially as it warms up and the biological activity in the bin gets more act, that kind of contributes to it.”

Producers may also be dealing with condensation on bin walls or roofs, which causes the grain to spoil and stick together. When left unchecked, this can result in a large clump of grain, which can block the flow.

When crusty grain dislodges, it could cause tons of grain to collapse without warning and with someone inside the bin that spells big trouble.

McNeil adds, “If you happen to walk out on to the grain surface, to try to break up a clump of grain, then you are getting on literally almost on ‘thin ice’... You are more at risk and you wouldn’t even want to do that if the grain’s surface had not been disturbed.”

Being buried in just a foot of grain can be so much weight, a person cannot move. It is extremely important to wear personal protective equipment and always work in pairs in a grain bin.