On-Farm Grain Storage Facility Safety

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator

As harvest finishes up, thoughts about on-farm grain storage turn to grain quality in the bin and handling or hauling out throughout the winter. Common injuries associated with grain handling facilities include slips, trips and falls; blunt trauma incidents; sprains / strains; entanglement; engulfment; and injuries caused by equipment.  Below are safety considerations for your grain storage facility when working this fall and winter:

  1. Keep equipment properly maintained. Recognize, respect, and avoid equipment hazards such as cut points, wrap points, pinch points, burn points, and stored energy. Severe injuries from equipment hazards can happen in a fraction of a second.
  1. Emergency contact information and procedures should be available and verified.  Make sure cell phones are adequately charged and have signal before starting potentially dangerous work.
  1. Try to avoid working alone. If you must work alone, notify family members or coworkers before starting potentially dangerous work and tell them when you expect to finish.
  1. Know where overhead power lines are so they can be avoided when moving equipment or using a portable auger.
  1. Insure there is adequate lighting at the facility when working in low light conditions to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
  1. Have a fire extinguisher handy and charged.  A fire in its beginning stages can many times be extinguished by quick response by someone with a fire extinguisher.
  1. If the grain is out of condition, the air quality inside the bin may not be safe. Do not try to enter without first sampling the air.
  1. Use a N-95 respirator when unloading grain or working in grain bins.  Grain dust and molds can cause serious respiratory health issues.
  1. Never enter a grain bin while grain handling components, such as augers, are in operation
    1. All equipment shutoffs should be labeled in the electrical panel and at switches.  This makes it easier to shut off specific equipment in the event of an emergency.
    2. Lockout/tagout procedures should be developed for all equipment.  When working on the grain bin, lockout/tagout keeps equipment from being unexpectedly started.
  1. If you must enter the bin use a body harness, lifeline and station a person at the entry point to monitor the person in the bin.
  1. Bridged grain or grain lining the wall of the bin is dangerous and should be handled at a distance, preferably from outside the bin.  Use a pole to break up bridged grain and try pounding on the outside of the bin to dislodged grain that clings to bin walls. 
  1. Ask your local fire department if they would like a tour of your facility.  If needed, it will help them respond more efficiently to your facility.

For more information about OSU Ag Safety visit http://www.agsafety.osu.edu or contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at mcguire.225@osu.edu or 614-292-0588.