Some people who insist on entering grain bins, with the auger on or off (but especially on), claim they are safe. They tie themselves off to the side of a bin with a rope and they have a cell phone or farm radio with them. If something goes wrong the rope will hold them up out of the grain pile, and besides, they can call for help on the cell phone.
There are at least two problems with that scenario. First, the rope can pull loose, even pull bolts out of the wall if the rope is attached to a ladder. I've seen it happen. The pull of the grain once you are stuck in flowing grain is stronger than the pull of the rope trying to keep you in place.
Second, Bill Field, Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist, says that counting on getting a cell phone signal inside a grain bin is risky. The all-steel construction of the bin may mean you don't have service. Even if you check it, there's no guarantee you will have service the second you might need it. Farm radios may not work inside a bin to send a radio message to a co-worker outside the bin either. And in grain bin accidents of this sort, you only have seconds to react before it's too late.
These aren't practical safety measures, Field urges. He and co-workers recently did an in-depth study of grain bin entrapments in the U.S. going back several decades. Spoiled grain that clogs augers and a worker going into the bin to free the clog with the auger running is a major cause.
Even if the auger is locked out, it's a good idea to have someone stationed at the top of the bin if you go inside. Some deaths have resulted when walls of grain break loose from the side and cover someone up. In today's bigger, taller, larger bins, it may be prudent to have someone at the top and someone on the ground who could call 911 immediately or take action if signaled by the lookout at the top of the bin.