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Farmers Encouraged to Think About Grain Bin Safety

With seeding just around the corner, farmers are encouraged to think about grain bin safety.

Every year, several Canadian farm workers suffocate in grain bins. These deaths are preventable.

People can become caught or trapped in grain bins in three different ways: the collapse of
bridged grain, the collapse of a vertical wall of grain and engulfment in grain.

Moving or flowing grain is involved in all three.

When you work with grain – loading it, unloading it and moving it from bin to bin – you need to know
about the hazards of flowing grain and how to prevent injury.

Those working with grain should have an entry procedure and an emergency procedure such as:

ENTRY PROCEDURE
– Don’t enter a grain bin unless you have a plan. Make sure children know the grain bin is off limits.
– If you must enter a grain bin, have at least two people nearby prepared and capable of helping in an emergency.
– Use extreme caution if entering a bin with wet, mouldy or spoiled grain in it. Air hazards may include toxic gases, dusts and reduced oxygen content. Turn on the blower and use respiratory protective equipment in such situations.
– Lock-out the power source to the auger, ensuring no one can start filling or emptying the bin while you are inside.
– If there is a permanent ladder on the inside of the bin, stay on the ladder above the level of compacted or bridged grain while dislodging the grain. Wear a full body harness with the lanyard attached to the ladder above your head. If you are in a bin that doesn’t have a permanent ladder, then use a safety harness with rope and secure it to a point outside the bin.

EMERGENCY PROCEDURES
– Plan for escape before entering. Always have a person watch from the outside. The watcher should have clear instructions on what to do in an emergency. The first instruction must be: “Don’t follow me in,” followed by “Call 911 and get help here if I get trapped.”
– If you are in a bin without a ladder and the grain starts to flow, try to reach the bin wall and keep walking around the bin next to the wall. Remember grain moves slowest along the wall and fastest at the centre.
– If trapped by grain do not panic – the grain will pack tighter. Shield your face and chest with arms and clothing to create space for breathing.
– If someone is trapped in a grain bin, empty the bin by opening any side outlets or cut flaps in the walls all around the base of the bin using power tools. This way, the grain will flow outward and away from the victim, rather than using the unloading auger, which will continue the downward funnel-like suction.

For more information and a further list of safety tips, please visit the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association website.

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