Across the Midwest, record-size harvests, domestic demand for corn and ethanol, and increases in grain storage capacity have resulted in more grain storage than ever before. With increases in grain storage and longer storage periods, the potential for grain to go out-of-condition increases. There is a direct relationship between out-of-condition, or spoiled grain, and the risk for grain entrapment.
Out-of-condition, crusted or frozen grain can form a horizontal “bridge” over a hollow area below. While bridged grain appears to be an intact surface, it is rarely hard enough to support a person. There is little chance of survival if you are in a bin walking on the grain surface when the crust breaks or a grain unloader is operating.
A person standing on crusted grain can fall through to the air space below and be covered in grain that caves in on them, or be pulled down through the grain in a matter of seconds when unloading equipment is running. Out-of-condition grain can also adhere to the vertical sidewall of a bin or storage structure and collapse onto a person inside.
2010 U.S. Grain Entrapment Facts
From 2000 through 2010, 17 individuals died in incidents involving grain entrapment. Five of these fatalities occurred in the 2 year period 2009-2010. An additional 9 individuals died due to falls off of or into grain bins from 2000 through 2010.
DID YOU KNOW…
Entrapment from flowing grain is preventable. Proper grain storage, safe work practices, use of personal protective equipment, effective emergency response practices, and anticipation of hazardous conditions save lives.
Proper grain storage practices can reduce the potential for grain to spoil or go out-of-condition, which leads to bridging, clumping, and clogging of unloading equipment.
Working alone greatly increases the risk for grain entrapment. Work with coworkers and keep each other informed of your whereabouts – particularly before entering storage structures and before engaging grain loading or unloading equipment. Make sure grain moving equipment is shut off and securely locked out to prevent inadvertent operation when someone must enter a bin. If entry into a structure containing grain is necessary, it should only be done with the use of a harness, lifeline, and partner, and after atmospheric conditions are proven safe.
Be aware of potentially dangerous conditions due to out-of-condition grain. When a grain storage unit appears to be too full for the amount of grain you have put in, grain may have formed a dangerous bridge over an open cavity below. If problems occur while unloading, look for signs of spoiled or bridged grain from outside the bin or silo. If you see no “funnel shape” at the surface of grain after removing grain from a bin, or the surface looks undisturbed, the grain has bridged and there is a cavity under the surface.
Never enter a grain storage bin, wagon, or container unless you:
Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program. 2010 Summary of Grain Entrapments in the United States. 2011.
University of Arkansas Division for Agriculture. Suffocation Hazards in Grain Bins. 2010.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA Fact Sheet Worker Entry into Grain Storage Bins. 2010.
North Dakota State University. Caught in the Grain! AE-1102. 1995.
The University of Iowa Department of Occupational and Environmental Health
UI Research Park 240 IREH Iowa City, IA52242-5000
Toll free: 800.513.0998
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More