"Flowing grain suffocation and entrapments are preventable," says Bill Field, Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist. He and others have developed several safety rules that can help safeguard you and your family and your workers against unnecessary injury or death.
He offers eight tips for staying safe while handling grain over the winter:
1. Take precautions before entering. Never enter a bin when unloading equipment is running, whether or not grain is flowing. "This is how everybody else does it," isn't a good excuse, and won't save your life! Lock out and tag-out devices that prevent someone from turning on equipment without knowing you are in the bin are a good idea, and may be required in some settings.
2. Keep children away! Hopper wagons, gravity bed wagons and truck grain beds should be off-limits for playing. Too many youngsters have been covered with grain because no one knew they were there.
3. Watch condition. Be careful around grain that may be out of condition. Stay alert to dangers that can result from blocked flow, unexpected cavities below a crusted surface, grain avalanches and respiratory problems from air-borne molds.
4. Invest in a rope and safety harness. Use them when you must enter a dangerous bin situation. Have two people capable of lifting you standing by outside. One could go for help while the other gives aid. Note it says safety harness, not just a rope – no short cuts!
5. Understand noise level. Don't assume a person outside the bin will hear you if you get in trouble. There are documented cases where even a person with a walkie-talkie couldn't react quick enough to call for help, and suffocated.
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6. Beware of piled grain. Dislodge crust or steep piles from above if possible. Use a long pole rather than a short shovel so you can stay out of the way.
7. Improve safety with ladders. Install ladders on the outside and inside.
8. Use the proper equipment. Ropes, chain or even pipe ladders hung from the roof aren't replacements for safety harnesses. They're not reliable, plus they may obstruct flow while filling the bin.