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Farmers can participate in Stand UP4 Grain Safety Week webinars

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

To raise awareness about the hazards of grain handling, the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is joining with industry leaders and safety professionals nationwide for the Stand Up4 Grain Safety Week, April 13-17. Grain Safety Stand-Ups are events for employers to talk to employees, suppliers and customers about safety.

To highlight the week, Aaron Yoder, Ph.D.,  an associate professor in the UNMC College of Public Health and a CS-CASH researcher, will present "Machine Guard Makeover" April 15 at 10 a.m. CST. Access this free webinar at https://standup4grainsafety.org/stand-up-week/machine-conveyor-guarding/

Other webinars throughout the week will include information on preventive maintenance, machine guard makeover, grain bin entry, and slips, trips and falls. Webinar information and registration can be found at the Stand Up4 Grain Website: https://standup4grainsafety.org/

Grain handling safety is of particular concern this spring, as heavy rains in 2019 contributed to record floods across the central U.S.. This caused unprecedented delays in planting crops and resulted in the fall harvest being stored with a high moisture content, which increases the possibility of grain clumping and molding. This may cause workers to enter bins to clear crops from sidewalls and augers to allow the grain to flow from the storage bin. Similar weather conditions in 2009 resulted in record numbers of injuries and deaths in 2010. 

Handling grain is one of the most dangerous jobs on the farm. When a grain bin auger is running, a worker can be pulled into grain up to their waist in 15 seconds; in just 30 seconds a worker can be completely submerged in grain. In 2018, there were 30 grain bin fatalities, a 30% increase from 2017. 

Understanding the steps to safely enter a bin, if necessary, can help prevent injury or death.
Review and implement these safety guidelines when handling grain in a bin.

ALWAYS IMPLEMENT LOCKOUT/TAGOUT (LOTO)
Statistics verify that 75% of grain bin accidents could have been prevented by using a LOTO protocol. Any time someone enters a grain bin, all power sources should be disconnected and locked in the off position by using the protocol. The person working in the bin should lock out the power with their own personal lock and key, so they alone have control of the energy source. A tag should be placed on the lock to warn others that the power is shut down and identify who is responsible for the shutdown. No one else should be able to remove the lock and accidently turn on the equipment. 

EVALUATE AIR QUALITY
Anyone entering a grain bin will encounter grain dust, which affects different people in different ways. Without the use of a mask equipped with a high efficiency filter, a worker may experience difficulty breathing due to the dust and mold typically present in a grain bin. 

In evaluating a bin’s air quality, there should be at least 19.5% oxygen inside the bin. If grain has been fumigated, it must be ventilated for several hours before anyone enters the bin.

Never smoke, weld or grind anything inside a grain bin. Doing so could initiate a fire or explosion due to grain dust.

SAFE ANCHOR POINTS
If your grain bin doesn’t have anchor points to secure a lifeline for anyone who enters it, consult your grain bin dealer or an engineer who can make recommendations for installing a lifeline anchor. If necessary, use two lifeline anchors to share up to a 5,000-pound load.

Most newer bins are designed to include anchor points. However, some older bins can be fitted with anchor points, too.

Don’t use ladders on the inside of the bin or ladders on the outside as anchor points. They were not designed for that purpose and never intended to bear the kind of load related to using a safety harness.

Evaluate the condition of your grain bin anchor. If there are any sharp edges that could damage a rope, it’s critical to cover that area. In instances where these anchors fail, its generally due to excess weight or pressure.

NEVER ENTER A BIN WITHOUT A SAFETY HARNESS
No one ever plans to experience tragedy inside a grain bin, but it can happen. A safety harness greatly aids any necessary rescue efforts.

Safety harness manufacturers provide printed instructions for using and maintaining a safety harness. Don’t deviate from the instructions.

Each grain bin entry safety harness bears a tag that documents the date and year the safety harness was manufactured. In purchasing a harness, don’t assume it was made recently. Check the date of manufacture and record the month, date and year the harness needs to be replaced. The average shelf life of a harness is five years, whether it is used or not.

To store the safety harness, keep it out of direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays, which will affect the quality of any rope or safety harness. Store the safety harness in an area where it’s protected from elements such as heat and moisture. Doing so helps improve the likelihood that the harness will provide the expected security.

Any time a safety harness is used to enter a grain bin, it must be laundered to remove grain dust. Both grain dust and moisture will weaken a safety harness over time.

Maintain a log that documents each date the safety harness is used and how it is used. This information helps ensure that the harness is properly maintained and replaced whenever necessary.

If you have any questions about your safety harness, contact the manufacturer. No one is more knowledgeable about their products than the company that makes them.

SAFETY HARNESS ROPES
Even new ropes can fail. When purchasing a rope, strictly follow manufacturer instructions for storing and maintaining the rope.

Those instructions will include keeping it out of direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays, which will affect the quality of any rope. Store the rope in an area where it’s protected from elements such as heat and moisture. Doing so helps improve the likelihood that the rope will provide the expected security.

Any time a rope is used to enter a grain bin, it must be laundered to remove grain dust. Both grain dust and moisture will weaken a rope over time.

If the rope is exposed to high heat, it should be replaced. Most modern rope materials are resistant to damage from heat. However, when a life is at stake, the cost of a rope is a small price to pay.

Document each time the rope is used and how it was used. Ropes have a shelf life similar to a safety harness. Replace them at least every five years, even if they were never used in a grain bin entry.

NEVER GO IN ALONE
Never enter a grain bin when you are alone. Anyone who starts sinking into grain held in a bin has just seconds to be rescued. Always have at least one person outside the bin to stand by, monitor your activity and summon help if necessary.

Never allow the standby person to enter the bin to attempt a rescue. Without a harness, they are likely to become a second victim in a grain bin incident.

Keep emergency phone numbers and instructions close at hand so they are easy to access if necessary.

If you discover striations (ridges or furrows), bridges or pyramids inside the bin, do not enter. Those formations are a clear indication that there are problems inside the bin.

FIRE AND RESCUE SITE TOUR
Consider scheduling a time for your local Fire and Rescue team to visit your grain bin site so they can be familiar with it prior to an emergency. The tour should include identifying the location of equipment shutoffs, how to shut equipment off, and any unique aspects of the site. An emergency response can be much more effective if responders have some idea of what to expect when they arrive at the site.

Maintain a log which shows what the bin is or has been holding, whether or not grain has been removed or added, and any other pertinent facts about use of the bin. This information assists responders in understanding what may have happened during a grain bin entry. It also can help to identify whether there is a grain pyramid or bridge inside the bin.

ADDITONAL GRAIN HANDLING EDUCATION
Find additional free grain handling education resources at https://grainsafety.org/training-2/course-descriptions/.