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Are Your Grain Bins Safe?

Are Your Grain Bins Safe?
Poor ground and electrical short could energize big bin.

Kyle Finley captivated audiences at the Farm Progress Show recently with his Live Line Demonstrations sponsored by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. Finley owns a company, Live Line Demo, Inc., that specializes in presenting programs and training sessions to help people remember that they don't need to fear electricity, but should have a healthy respect for it.

One obvious problem this time of year comes when moving augers on wheels from one bin to another on the farmstead, or from farm to farm. Sometimes from the tractor cab it's difficult to judge whether an auger will clear a power line or not. Err on the side of caution, and check closely before pulling the auger under the line or getting it near to the line. Distances can be deceiving when you're trying to judge them from the ground.

The problem with contacting an auger with a power line occurs when the person driving the tractor pulling the auger steps off the tractor and makes contact with the ground. Then the electricity flowing through the auger from the line it's in contact with suddenly has a shorter path of least resistance to the ground- the person. Unfortunately, many incidents of that kind are fatal.

The not as obvious danger is that with older bin systems, especially, it's possible that the electric components driving motors and the like may not be grounded properly, or may wind up not grounded properly over time. Finley says that if you're relying on a simple little rod running into the ground as protection, you're probably far too trusting.

He urges people to inspect the wiring of motors and other devices around bins, or have it inspected by an electrician, to make sure that after years of wear, everything is properly grounded. Without proper grounding, if a short or other situation causes current to reach the metal bin, the entire bin can become energized. Once energized, anyone who comes in contact with it is at risk of electrocution, all because the bin was not grounded properly to get any current that tried to flow through the bin into the ground instead.

He's aware of situations where metal buildings have also become energized because an electrical wire fell upon a metal roof. If the entire building is energized, anyone who attempts to work on the building may be in danger.

The bottom line is caution, he says. If your bin system hasn't been inspected recently, think about an inspection for the wiring.
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