Proper grain bin management saves lives
This spring, grain producers across the Mid-South are dealing with grain quality issues in storage bins that are causing problems during unloading. As farmers address these issues, it is important they follow proper bin management techniques to ensure they stay safe, says Sam McNeill, agricultural engineer at the University of Kentucky.

“Tragically, when grain quality issues occur in storage, they tend to lead to an increase in entrapments and sometimes fatalities as producers try to unload spoiled grain from bins and piles,” he said. “If they have grain flow problems this spring, I hope farm families will take proper precautions to stay safe and healthy.”

Spoiled grain often develops large clumps that stick together either on the surface, in the center, or along the bin wall. These clumps clog outlets and prevent grain from emptying as it should. Some of the grain harvested last fall was placed in bins at high moisture levels, and producers may be dealing with condensation on bin walls or roofs, which causes the grain to spoil and stick together. In addition, producers may not have cored their bins or cleaned their grain to remove fines, which interfere with air

movement. A high density of fines in the center of the bin reduces airflow, which leads to heating in that zone and increases spoilage. Left unchecked, this can result in a large clump of grain blocking the flow. When crusty grain dislodges, it can cause tons of grain to collapse without warning.

“When producers struggle to get grain moving out of a bin, they sometimes face a great temptation to ignore safety practices to get the bin unloaded, but this is extremely dangerous as it can cause entrapment, suffocation, and death,” McNeill said. “While it is important to remove the grain from the bin to minimize any further spoilage, they need to do so with utmost caution.”

McNeill offers the following tips to help keep farm workers safe:
Do not enter bins when unloading equipment is running or showing signs of crusty grain.
Observe grain condition from outside of the bin from the top access hatch andhave someone with you when you do. They can call for help if something happens.
Long probes may be used to break up crusty grain or dislodge clumps of fines or trash that are blocking grain flow. However, producers should only use them from outside of the bin. Be sure to work in pairs and stay clear of overhead power
Finally, always think before you act. It could save lives!

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