In 2021, the latest year for available data, there were 29 grain-related entrapments. Of those 29 cases, 11 ended with the victim's death. Please note that these only represent the entrapments that were documented and reported on, but the number of unreported cases is probably much higher.
Grain handling companies have worked hard to provide education and equipment to rural firefighters and first responders to better prepare them for a grain bin rescue. These efforts seem to be paying off,. The report from Perdue notes that cases and fatalities have been decreasing since they started compiling the data in 2013.
Keeping workers safe when entering a grain bin is everyone's job. Employers should have a clear policy in place and insure that workers are trained on grain bin entry safety procedures and emergency response plans. If your facility doesn't have a grain bin entry policy, or it needs to be updated, there are key things to keep in mind.
As with the related to safety at a grain or feed facility, companies should have a written grain bin entry safety plan to ensure that workers are aware of the hazards associated with working in or around grain storage facilities and to provide clear guidance on how to minimize those hazards. A written safety plan helps to establish a consistent approach to grain bin entry safety that can be communicated to all workers and contractors involved in the operation.
The safety plan should outline the specific procedures to be followed before, during and after grain bin entry. The plan should also identify the roles and responsibilities of all personnel involved in the operation.
Workers who enter a grain bin should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize their risk of injury or illness. The following PPE should be worn inside a grain bin:
Respirator: A respirator should be worn to protect against inhalation of dust, mold, and other airborne particles that can be present in a grain bin. Respirators should be selected based on the type and concentration of the hazard and should be fit-tested to ensure proper fit and protection.
Safety glasses: Safety glasses should be worn to protect the eyes from flying debris, dust, and other airborne particles.
Hearing protection: Hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, should be worn to protect against the loud noises that can be generated by grain handling equipment.
Gloves: Gloves should be worn to protect the hands from cuts, punctures and other hazards. In addition to these PPE, workers should also wear appropriate clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, to protect against cuts and abrasions. Non-slip footwear should be worn to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
It is crucial to turn off all power sources to a grain bin before entering it to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. Grain bins may have various types of power sources, including electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic sources, which can be hazardous to workers inside the bin.
By turning off all power sources to the grain bin, workers can minimize the risk of these hazards and prevent accidental activation of power sources while they are inside the bin.
Employees should never work alone in a grain bin. Having a spotter or observer present at all times when an employee is working in a grain bin in case of an emergency. If a worker is alone in the bin and gets injured or trapped, they may not be able to call for help themselves. Having a second employee to monitor the worker inside the bin for signs of distress, such as difficulty breathing or signs of suffocation. The workers should be communicating any political hazards or changes to the environment.
Ensuring proper ventilation inside a grain bin is essential for the safety of workers who are entering the bin. Grain bins can be hazardous environments because they can contain dangerous gasses, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen, which can accumulate and cause suffocation or other health hazards. Proper ventilation is necessary to ensure that these gasses are removed from the grain bin and replaced with fresh air.
The final tip is easier said than done, but employees should be encouraged to stay alert when working in a grain bin because it helps them identify potential hazards and react quickly to prevent accidents. Distractions can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, so workers should avoid distractions such as using mobile phones or listening to music while working in a grain bin, as it can divert their attention away from the task at hand and increase the likelihood of making a mistake.
Grain bin accidents can happen suddenly and without warning. Staying alert allows workers to react quickly to an emergency and follow emergency response procedures. In some cases, a worker's ability to stay alert and respond quickly can mean the difference between life and death.