What Is Grain Bin Safety and Why Is It Important?

Today’s farms are larger and as productivity and efficiency have increased, so has the number of storage bins per farm. Over the last 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain entrapments have been reported in the United States and have resulted in a 62 percent fatality rate, according to research from Purdue University. The goal of our Grain Bin Safety is to educate our agricultural communities on safe work practices and procedures to help reduce the number of preventable injuries and deaths associated with grain handling and storage. 


Golden City Fire Department and Carthage Fire Department are now better equipped to respond to grain bin entrapment due to the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest that our agency partnered on with Nationwide Insurance and the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS).


“It’s exciting to see two awards presented in our area because it not only benefits Golden City Fire Department and Carthage Fire Department, it extends to mutual aid fire departments, which makes a much larger impact in our community,” said Kevin Charleston, owner of Specialty Risk Insurance. “Rural fire fighters are often the first and only line of defense when someone becomes helplessly trapped in grain. The only way to safely remove someone trapped in a grain bin is to remove the grain around the person’s body using a grain rescue tube or cofferdam.”


In addition to the presentations of the grain rescue tubes, our agency hosted a three-hour OSHA confined space grain bin entry and prevention of grain dust explosion training in Lockwood, Missouri. Safety and education are at the center of such programs and underline the importance of proper grain bin operation and procedures for entering a confined space such as a grain bin.


Dan Neenan, director for NECAS, and instructor for the training event stresses the importance of a lockout/tagout procedure to safely enter a grain bin or to perform maintenance on unloading equipment. The lockout/tagout procedure reduces injury or death in grain handling and the hazards associated with flowing grain, entanglement, and electrocution.


In the lockout/tagout process, padlocks and tags are attached at the power shutoff of the grain bin after the power has been turned off. Padlocks and tags should be attached for each person working in or on the grain bin or associated equipment. Once everyone has exited the area and work is complete, each person unlocks his or her own padlock before power is restored to the bin. This ensures that everyone has completed the maintenance and are out of harm’s way before the power is turned back on.“But, the rule that is broken the most is that entering a bin is a two-person job,” Neenan said.


To enter a grain bin properly, Neenan explains that it’s one person’s job to enter and the other to keep watch for any problems that might arise. If someone becomes entrapped or nonresponsive, it’s up to the watch person to not go in after him or her, but to call 911 and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Neenan explained that it takes 365 pounds of pressure to pull out a person weighing 165 pounds sunk to their bellybutton in grain. If that same person is sunk in grain up to their neck, it takes 625 pounds of pressure to pull them out.“You’re going to pull their arm out of their socket long before you get them out of the grain,” Neenan said.


The use of grain rescue tubes can improve the survival rate during a grain bin entrapment. The tube is placed around the victim and grain is taken out of the tube until the person can be extracted.


The Nominate Your Fire Department Contest has provided three total grain rescue tubs to the southwest Missouri area in the last two years; Jasper County Fire-Rescue was awarded a rescue tube in 2017.


“It is important for our team to spread awareness and to help educate our agricultural community in order to save lives,” Charleston said. “We are grateful to live and work in the agribusiness industry and to have this opportunity to give back.”


Grain Rescue Tube Awardings [2018]

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