By: Kathleen Lonergan Erickson on October 14th, 2020
Poor Grain Quality is Directly Linked To Bin Safety
Grain bin entrapment and deaths have been on a sharp upturn the past couple of years. Across the country in 2019, reported grain entrapments rose by 27 percent from a year earlier, and grain bin entrapment deaths rose by 53 percent. Poor grain quality issues caused by downed and damaged crops may exacerbate the challenges of storing grain on the farm, thus causing further risk to farmers. According to the University of Illinois, the August Derecho storm has damaged more than 37.7 million acres of crops across Iowa and Illinois, making this year challenging to farmers storing grain.
Poor consistency and low grain quality make the grain more likely to clump, form crusts, or stick to the sides of a bin. Those conditions mean that grain is not likely to flow well. This practice is inherently dangerous.
Even if the auger is not running, grain may settle with pockets, ready to collapse and engulf individuals attempting to break up the lodged grain. It is highly risky as grain can act like quicksand and entrap, engulf, and suffocate individuals extremely rapidly.
Even when stationary, grain can settle beneath someone and rapidly entrap or engulf them. When machinery is involved, such as an auger causing the grain to flow, it is more likely that a person inside the bin will be pulled down into the moving grain.
It takes so little grain and so little time to entrap an individual. One foot of grain in a bin can create about 300 pounds of pressure. Once entrapped, it is nearly impossible for an individual to release themselves or for others to lift them from the grain.
Even just 2 feet of grain surrounding a body, knee-deep, requires extreme measures to free a person from the grain. OSHA notes that when a person enters a grain bin and grain begins flowing around them; they only have 2 seconds to react. Entrapment occurs in as little as 4-5 seconds, and engulfment may result as quickly as 22 seconds.
Back to the Derecho, hundreds of on-farm storage bins were damaged or destroyed in the August storm. Some farms are resorting to using older bins for on-farm storage. This is yet another scenario confounding the risk factors in grain storage safety. Combined with storing “out of condition” grain, the risks and dangers of grain bin storage are especially high this year. Be safe!