Grain bin entrapments and incidents involving gain bins that resulted in deaths or injuries were up in 2010. Steve Wettschurack with the Purdue University farm safety program says that the statistic likely tied directly to a tough harvest season in 2009, when harvest was delayed by rain and crops were wetter at harvest than normal.
The 2013 crop appeared to be headed that direction, until a dry August and early September sped up maturity, Wettschurack says. However, with corn moisture still above 20% in many fields, and harvest dragging out since the crop is large and takes time to handle, he suspects there could still be at least a few more problems than normal with storing grain this year. That means there may be more spoilage.
Grain spoilage results in a number of issues that affect health and safety.
One, of course, is the danger of being caught in an auger if you disregard safety advice and are inside a bin trying to free a clog preventing grain from flowing out, with the auger still running. That's strictly taboo, but the reality is that some people still do it, putting themselves in jeopardy. Once the clog breaks if the grain flows quickly they're at risk of being paralyzed in a sea of grain and being trapped. Suffocation is often the result.
Another danger is that of moldy grain, Wettschurack ways. If you're working inside a bin of very moldy grain, you put your own health at risk. Sometimes farmers who clean out grain bins don't feel well for the next couple of days, and blame it on a bug or the flu. Oftentimes it's a reaction to inhaling molds, he says. A lot of it depends upon how allergic you are to corn dust.
As a minimum, he recommends that you wear an N-95 paper dust mask for protection when working with grain that might have spoilage issues.