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Safety issues: Farmers can prevent bin entrapment

Recent grain bin entrapments throughout Arkansas, southeast Missouri and Mississippi are reminders that grain storage, especially flowing grain, may become dangerous.

Tragedies in Arkansas have included suffocation in livestock and poultry feed, cottonseed, rice and soybeans.

In a study of on-farm grain bin accidents gathered from throughout the United States and Canada, few of the 197 victims survived. Rescue rarely occurred, and people who became entrapped in the grain died.

People responsible for the condition of grain and others who may enter grain bins should be fully aware of the risks. Effective planning is the best prevention for most hazards, but it's vital to prevent suffocation or entrapment in stored grain where death is likely.

Plans and management of grain facilities and grain quality preservation should include an emphasis on not entering a bin until vital measures are followed.

Here's how you can avoid becoming a victim:

  • Don't work alone while unloading grain from a bin;
  • Before entering a bin, have a plan in place that includes adequate response within seconds of an accident;
  • Don't let people climb or walk into a bin without someone outside prepared to rescue them; and
  • Make sure everyone who enters a bin or operates grain handling systems understand the potential dangers.

Based on responses to a national study, it's clear that those who worked on farms where an entrapment had occurred were more deliberate and more cautious after the tragedy.

However, knowing that others have experienced a fatality in on-farm grain storage is a warning for all grain handlers. Grain bin entry policies need to be clear to everyone in your facility. The welfare of everyone in your organization depends on following sound grain bin entry policies and taking flowing grain hazards seriously.

Planning and management of grain storage requires checking to keep grain in good condition. Protect yourself and those who enter grain storage so grain monitoring activity and bin entry doesn't have a fatal outcome.

Review the risk factors, such as breaking up crusted grain. Require that a co-worker monitor anyone entering a bin. Obtain and use an appropriate safety harness with a tether fall protection system to retrieve a person caught in a grain avalanche. It may save the life of a friend or co-worker.

For more information on grain entrapment, contact an Arkansas county Extension office and ask for the publication “Suffocation Hazards in Grain Bins, FSA1010.”

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

Gary Huitink is an Extension ag engineer and safety specialist with the University of Arkansas. e-mail: email:

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