NDSU Extension - Stark & Billings County

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Work Safely Around Grain

Grain Bin Dangers

Never enter a bin while unloading grain or to break up a grain bridge. Flowing grain will pull you into the grain mass, burying you within seconds.

Stop the grain-conveying equipment and use the “lock-out/tag-out” procedures to secure it before entering the bin. Use a key-type padlock to lock the conveyor switch in the “off” position to assure that the equipment does not start automatically or someone does not start it accidentally.

Bridging occurs when grain is high in moisture content, moldy or in poor condition. The kernels stick together and form a crust. A cavity will form under the crust when grain is removed from the bin. The crust isn’t strong enough to support a person’s weight, so anyone who walks on it will fall into the cavity and be buried under several feet of grain.
Stay outside the bin and use a pole or other object to break the bridge loose.

If the grain flow stops when you’re removing it from the bin but the grain surface has a funnel shape and shows some evidence that grain has been flowing into the auger, a chunk of spoiled grain probably is blocking the flow. Entering the bin to break up the blockage will expose you to being buried in grain and tangled in the auger.

If grain has formed a vertical wall, try to break it up from the top of the bin with a long pole on a rope or through a door with a long pole. A wall of grain can collapse, or avalanche, without warning, knocking you over and burying you.

Follow recommended storage management procedures to minimize the potential for crusting or bridging and chunks of grain blocking unloading.

Also, never enter a grain bin alone. Have at least two people at the bin to assist in case of problems. Use a safety harness when entering a bin.

Rescuing a Trapped Person

If someone gets trapped:

•    Shut off all grain-moving equipment.
•    Contact your local emergency rescue service or fire department.
•    Ventilate the bin using the fan.
•    Form a retaining wall around the person using a rescue tube or plywood, sheet metal or other material to keep grain from flowing toward the person, then remove grain from around the individual. Walking on the grain pushes more grain onto the trapped person.
•    Don’t try to pull a person out of grain. The grain exerts tremendous forces, so trying to pull someone out could damage the person’s spinal column or cause other damage.
•    Cut holes in the bin sides to remove grain if the person is submerged. Use a cutting torch, metal-cutting power saw or air chisel to cut at least two V- or U-shaped holes on opposite sides or more holes equally spaced around the bin. Grain flowing from just one hole may injure the trapped person and cause the bin to collapse.

For more information, check out NDSU publication “Caught in the Grain.”


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