The other night while the kids and I decorated the Christmas tree and Christmas Vacation played on the TV, I off-handedly picked up my phone and glanced at my Twitter Feed only to read a tweet that left a sinking feeling in my stomach:
"Grain bin entrapment at Pecatonica, rescue of two people ongoing.... hope it ends well."
Since 1964, Purdue University has recorded more than 800 cases of flowing grain entrapment, with many "non-fatal" incidents going unreported. The U.S. averages 15-20 documented entrapments per year. Based on historical data, roughly 70% of the documented entrapments occur on farms.
This brings to mind five major tips to keep in mind when dealing with grain:
1. Grain bins are off limits to children and unauthorized personnel
2. Never work alone around grain bins
3. Never enter a bin of flowing grain
4. Lockout, tagout all power supply on all unloading mechanisms
5. Manage and monitor stored grain quality
The number one reason entrapments occur is out-of-condition grain. Spoiled grain creates problems unloading bins. A good stored grain management and monitoring program can prevent problems occurring in the first place, and it's something you can control.
Grain spoilage is usually the cumulative result of several different decisions; therefore the better decisions made the better chance of for maintaining the quality of grain you originally stored.
Four factors which greatly affect grain storability are grain moisture, grain temperature, initial condition of grain, and insects and mold. All are interrelated. By keeping these factors in mind when putting grain in the bin, watching and checking the bin during the storage time and aeration, the grain you pull out should be the quality of grain you put in. That makes the possibility of grain entrapment due to poor quality one more item to check off the list.
While the tweet turned out to be a silo accident which didn't end well, sincere prayers for this family, farm and community, the message remains the same – stay safe!