As grain farmers and their families empty grain bins in preparation for fall harvest, it is important to be aware of grain bin hazards. The moisture of a wet autumn can cause grain to cake or crust grain at the surface (known as bridging).
Bridged grain is extremely hazardous because it prevents grain flow and hides underlying pockets of air in the grain. Farm workers walking on the bridged surface or attempting to break up the bridged material have fallen through and become engulfed in grain.
Farm workers may also be buried by stored grain while the grain is being emptied from the bottom of the bin. Much like quicksand, the flowing grain can pull the worker completely into the bin. The risk of suffocation increases if the grain has spoiled, because it then emits carbon dioxide, which may displace the oxygen in the bin.
A farm worker must take the following precautions.
If at all possible, do not enter storage bins. Use tools and mechanical equipment to eliminate grain that is caked on the walls of the bin, without entering the bin.
If you must enter a bin, before entering: Stop the flow of grain. Shut down and lockout the loading/unloading equipment that is in operation. Follow the guidelines in the grain standards (1910.272 (g) and (h)) that deal with proper confined-space entry procedures to include atmospheric testing,ventilation, use of a body harness and lifeline by the entrant, designation of an observer or standby person, rescue equipment and communication.
Farm workers need to be trained about the general safety precautions of the facility and specific procedures and safety practices applicable to their job tasks (1910.272(e)).
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