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Prioritize Safety When Entering Grain Bins

Prioritize Grain Bin Safety

Entering any grain bin or storage unit is a process that requires planning and preparation. If possible, every effort should be taken to avoid entry into a grain bin. However, if entry is deemed necessary, be sure to follow these seven steps to ensure that your bin entry program is up to date and all workers are trained properly to address potential hazards and prevent incidents such as entrapments from occurring.

Plan Ahead
Once it is decided that it is necessary to enter a grain bin, it is a good idea to sit down with all the workers who will be involved to assign roles and responsibilities. This pre-task planning process should also identify the equipment that needs to be locked out, the forms of communication that will be used, the equipment that will be needed for the work and the emergency action plan. A bin entry permit should be used with employees that provides a checklist to follow for safe bin entry.

Before entering a grain bin, be sure to turn off and disconnect, lock out, tag out or block off all mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment that presents a danger. This step is vital to ensure grain will not be emptied or moved in the bin while workers are inside. If grain is emptied or moved, it creates a suction that can pull a worker into the grain in seconds.

Test the Air
It is also important to test the air within a bin for oxygen content and the presence of hazardous gases before entry. Use an air monitor that is calibrated and bump tested to check to see if the space is safe for human occupancy. If it is not safe, provide and continue ventilation until any unsafe atmospheric conditions are eliminated in the bin.

Stay Off the Grain
Before the grain bin is entered, inspect the space, looking for bridged grain, grain beyond the natural angle of reposed, hung up grain and anything else that may pose a threat to the entrant. When a worker stands next to or underneath bridged or cliffed grain inside a grain bin, incidents such as entrapments can occur. Therefore, it is important to prohibit entry onto or below a bridging condition, where grain is built up on the side of the bin. It is also a good idea to prohibit walking down grain and similar practices where a worker walks on grain to make it flow.

Wear Safety Gear
If there is a need to enter a grain bin at or above the level of stored grain, then each worker entering a bin should wear a body harness and a lifeline. This should also be done when a worker will walk or stand on stored grain. Ensure the lifeline is positioned and of sufficient length to prevent a worker from sinking further than waist-deep in grain.

Provide Rescue Equipment
Another good practice is to provide workers with rescue equipment, such as winch systems that are specifically suited for rescue from the bin.

Have Backup
Station an observer who is equipped to provide assistance and perform rescue operations outside the bin. This person should stay in direct communication (visual, voice and/or signal line) with the workers who entered the bin. The observer should also monitor the space and outside factors for any changes that could pose a hazard to the workers in the bin and terminate the entry if unexpected or abnormal conditions arise.

By following these seven simple steps, you can help ensure that safety is a priority when entering grain bins on your operation. To learn more about grain bin safety, contact your local FS Company and check out the following resources from the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA):


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