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Posted 26 June 2014. PMN Crop News.

Stored Grain Poses Danger

Remember these safety reminders when working around full bins

Source: United Soybean Board Press Release.

Source: North Dakota State University Press Release.

Chesterfield, Missouri (June 10, 2014)--If you have any grain left from last fall’s harvest and plan to clean out your bins once you finish planting, remember not to enter a bin when unloading or breaking up a mass of grain.


Anyone working around grain bins needs to be aware of the dangers of stored grain, warns Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer.

“A lot of wetter-than-normal corn went into storage last fall, and wet corn is more prone to crusting or creating a wall of grain near the grain bin wall,” he says. “This increases the potential for bin-unloading problems and getting trapped by the grain.”


People can become trapped in three ways: by flowing grain, the collapse of a vertical wall of grain and the collapse of bridged grain.

Bridging occurs when the grain sticks together and forms a crust over an open cavity that can form whenever grain is removed from the bin. However, the crust isn’t strong enough to support a person’s weight. Bridging also transfers more of the load to the bin wall, which may lead to bin failure during unloading.

Hellevang offers these tips to help keep farmers and elevator personnel safe:

• Never enter a bin while unloading grain or to break up a grain bridge. A wall of grain can collapse without warning and cover a person in a few seconds.

• After partially unloading a bin, look for a funnel shape on the grain surface. If the surface appears undisturbed, the grain has bridged and a cavity has formed underneath.

• Stay outside the bin and use a pole or other object to break up bridged grain. Attach the pole or other object to the bin with a rope so you can retrieve the pole or other object if you drop it.

• When breaking up a grain wall or other large mass from the top of the bin or through the bin door, do not break up more than is necessary to keep the grain from crashing into the wall or flowing out through the door.

• Do not unload grain from an opening in the grain bin door or the sump on the side of the grain bin. Unloading grain from the side can damage the bin and cause it to collapse.

• Do not allow people to work around stored grain until warning them about the hazards.

• Never enter a bin without stopping the auger and using the “lock-out/tag-out” procedures to secure it. Use a key-type padlock to lock the auger switch in the “off” position.

• Never enter a grain bin alone. Have at least two people ready outside the bin to assist in case of problems. Use a safety harness and line when entering a bin.

Take these steps if someone gets trapped:

• Shut off all grain-moving machinery to stop the flow of grain.

• Contact your local emergency rescue service or fire department.

• Ventilate the bin using the fan.

• Form retaining walls around the person with plywood, sheet metal or other material to keep grain from flowing toward the person, then remove grain from around the individual.

• Don’t try to pull out anyone engulfed in grain up to the waist or higher. The grain exerts tremendous pressure on the body, so pulling a person out could damage his or her spine.

• Cut holes in the bin’s 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. A bucket on a tractor also can open holes rapidly. Grain flowing from just one hole may injure the trapped person and cause the bin to collapse.