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6 safety hazards to avoid around grain bin operations

Thinking ahead to harvest means thinking about safety, too.

The Independent Insurance Agents of Indiana gathered at the Purdue University Agronomic Center for Research and Education recently to learn about risks in agriculture which many of their policyholders face daily. One of the areas Jim Beaty, superintendent of Purdue University’s Agronomic Center for Research and Education, made sure they visited was the grain center at ACRE. While it’s smaller than many grain centers on the farm today, the risks are still very much the same, he noted. When the agents left ACRE, they had a better understanding of why it’s important for their customers to follow safety procedures around grain centers.

6 hot spots for risks
Here are 6 potential safety hazards agents learned about while touring the grain center. You likely know each and every one. Does each family member who could contact the grain center know about each one like you do? Would each family member know how to avoid a dangerous situation if they were either working around the center or spending time there?

Here are potential dangers Beaty and other Extension educators pointed out to the group:

1. Heights and risks of falls. Just the nature of grain bins being tall, and legs and augers going up large distances in the air, adds height to the list of potential risks. Falls off grain bins occasionally claim lives — even of experienced farmers. Make sure you’re using proper protective safety equipment like harnesses, and you’re avoiding risky situations.

2. Too kid-friendly. Are there trucks or wagons with grain in them sitting in the barn lot around the grain center? Are there ladders on bins within a kid’s reach without gates locking someone out from entering them? Remind your children that grain wagons, trucks and grain bins aren’t play areas.

3. Wires, pipes and such. Guide wires that hold grain legs in place and augers that may run along the ground from one bin to another set up the possibility of tripping, if you or an employee is in a hurry and moving around in the grain center. Tripping and falling is a significant cause of accidents around grain centers.

4. Proper lighting for night vision. Even with modern dryer and aeration controllers, you may find an occasion to work in the grain center after dark — especially during harvest — even if it’s just to check a dryer. Is the work area well-lighted? Have you put thought into how to light up the workplace around the bins so that no one will be walking in the dark?

5. Augers and pits. Augers are shielded, and all guards and shield should remain in place. Another risk of working around the grain center is working there alone. Say you’re working on an auger and an employee doesn’t know you’re there. He flips on the auger. More than one hand and arm have been lost to that hazard. Locking out electrical switches with locks is a must around a grain center, Beaty said.

6. Electricity and dust in the air. Every grain center has an electrical control center. Sometimes the electrical boxes are in a separate building, but sometimes they’re in the area where grain is unloaded, with more dust around. Whenever Beaty flips a switch on a control box, he stands to the side for safety reasons. Instances of flashback at the box in a person’s face have been reported.

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