Flowing Grain Is A Killer

   Flowing grain kills, and it kills quickly. It takes less than five seconds for a person caught in flowing grain to be trapped says Bob Aherin, agricultural safety specialist with the University of Illinois Extension. 
   There is an average of two to five grain bin suffocations in Illinois in a typical year, says Aherin.
   “Flowing grain in a storage bin or gravity-flow wagon is like quicksand,” says Aherin. “It can immobilize a person almost instantly, and a person can become totally submerged in flowing grain in 20 seconds or less.”
   To prevent grain bin suffocations and other farm accidents, it’s necessary to understand the risks and follow the appropriate steps to avoid becoming a victim. Simply “being aware” will not prevent tragedy, Aherin points out. He makes the following recommendations, based on research in Illinois and other states:
   • Work with at least one helper if you need to go into a grain bin. Bins are "confined spaces" that require special procedures for safe entry. These procedures include the use of lifelines and harnesses to prevent engulfment.
   • Even if grain is not flowing, you can still suffocate, especially when grain is in poor condition. Moldy or wet grain often clumps together in the upper layers. As you unload from the bottom, a large air pocket may form below the surface. A person who walks over the crusted surface will break through and be buried alive under thousands of pounds of grain. Use a long wooden pole to break up clumped grain from above. Be extremely careful not to contact overhead electrical lines.
   • When entering a bin, turn off all unloading equipment and use a padlock to lock out switches so they can't be activated accidentally also put a tag on the lock warning others that someone is in a bin or working on the system. This includes sweep augers and augers on automatic unloading circuits.
   • If someone on your farm has become trapped in grain, shut off power unloading equipment immediately. Then turn on the aeration fan and call your local rescue squad. Extreme caution is needed to rescue anyone partially entrapped in grain and bins will need to be opened up and drained quickly for totally engulfed victims. Special rescue tools and expertise is needed for a safe rescue.
   • Never let children play or ride on grain wagons or trucks. If the vehicle's unloading gate opens accidentally, the child will be pulled into the flowing mass, and will likely suffocate if wedged in the opening. Also, bin ladders should start high enough off the ground to keep young children out of bins.
   “Take every step possible to manage stored grain to prevent problems that might increase the need to enter the bin frequently,” advises Aherin. “Grain quality management begins at harvest, but includes close monitoring and supervision throughout the storage period. For more information on stored grain management, contact your local Extension office of the University of Illinois.” ∆
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