Review, enforce safety procedures and training at your feed mill  

Every summer, the tragic reports of commercial and on-farm grain entrapment deaths start rolling in and don’t end until the winter. Unfortunately, these incidents are preventable. Truly, the argument “I’ve been doing this for 30 years” doesn’t hold up when risky behavior stacks the odds against you.

While all of the trade associations and publications have touched on this topic more than a few times, it doesn’t hurt to revisit this discussion every so often.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it takes less than 60 seconds to become completely submerged in flowing grain. Death can come quickly, either through asphyxiation or by being crushed under the weight of the grain, which can reach more than 1,300 pounds within seconds.

With engulfment incidents tracking at a 50 percent mortality rate, prevention and awareness are key elements to ensure the safety of anyone handling bulk grains.

Grain elevators, fresh off the confusion of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) zero-entry guidance, are well aware of the danger – and potential penalties – of unsafe grain bin interactions. However, I wonder how much many of those best practices make it into the day-to-day mindset of those working with on-farm storage and, even to some extent, at feed mills.

Here’s a quick refresher of OSHA’s best practices for preventing grain entrapment:

Keep your grain conditioned

In addition to keeping mycotoxins in check, properly dried and maintained grains prevent bridging, crusting and accumulation in storage bins and silos.

Implement the buddy system

Don’t work near stored grain alone. Have someone nearby and keep in constant communications with them. Also, make sure a staff is trained on how to act if faced with an accident.

Dedication to the practice of lock-out/tag-out

Ensure that there isn't a chance for the equipment to dislodge grain while an employee is in the bin – de-energize the auger and all equipment if you are entering the bin. Grain movement in or out of the bin can produce a suctioning effect.

Stay clear of precarious grain

Do not walk on or under bridged grain or near where it may have built up along the side. Do not try to dislodge it from an unsafe location.

Invest in the proper equipment – and use it

Employees entering the bin should be connected to a body harness. If an incident occurs, this is the first line in ensuing the victim does not get lost or descend deeper into the grain. Also, consider investing in on-site rescue equipment, such as a rescue tube or cofferdam.

While companies may have proper training and protocols in place, it helps to revisit the discussion not only with new hires, but with all employees with some frequency.