OSU Agriculture Safety and Health Professionals Offer Grain Handling Safety Tips

 Combine unloading grain. Photo: Thinkstock.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – With grain harvest well underway statewide thanks to favorable weather conditions throughout the region, growers are reminded that taking extra precautions when handling grain can lessen the potential for injury.

When working around grain storage facilities, incidents such as slips, trips, falls, severe trauma injuries, entanglement or engulfment can happen in a fraction of a second, said Kent McGuire, agriculture safety and health coordinator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Throughout Ohio, on-farm grain storage facilities are being upgraded, and newly constructed on-farm storage facilities are getting larger and larger,” McGuire said. “Harvest season is in full swing and there is a lot of activity filling these facilities with corn and soybeans.

“With that in mind, it’s important for people to think about the safety issues involved when handing grain throughout the fall and winter months. A lot of farmers recognize the hazards associated with handling grain, but during a busy harvest season, safety may not always be at the forefront of their work process.”

A farmer working alone at an on-farm grain storage facility is a common safety shortcut, he said.

“It’s always a good idea to notify family members or coworkers before starting any potentially dangerous work and tell them when you expect to finish,” McGuire said. “If you are supposed to be done within a specific time, someone can check on you periodically or if you are late.”

Other safety tips include:  

  • Keep equipment properly maintained. Recognize, respect and avoid equipment hazards such as cut points, wrap points, pinch points, burn points and stored energy. Severe injuries from equipment hazards can happen in a fraction of a second.
  • Emergency contact information and procedures should be available and verified. Make sure cell phones are adequately charged and have signal before starting potentially dangerous work.
  • Know where overhead power lines are so they can be avoided when moving equipment or using a portable auger.
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting at the facility when working in low light conditions to prevent slips, trips and falls.
  • Have a fire extinguisher handy and charged. A fire in its beginning stages often can be extinguished by a quick response by someone with a fire extinguisher.
  • Wear an N-95 respirator when working around grain, as it keeps 95 percent of the dust and other pollutants from the grain from entering the lungs.
  • All equipment shutoffs should be labeled in the electrical panel and at switches. This makes it easier to shut off specific equipment in the event of an emergency.
  • Never enter a grain bin when the unloading equipment is on. Lockout or tagout procedures should be developed for all equipment to keep them from being unexpectedly started.
  • Never enter a grain bin alone. If entry into the bin is necessary, always have at least one observer outside the bin, and make sure all augers are turned off. One person is to enter the bin, and the others should remain outside in case an emergency occurs. Always use a body harness with a lifeline secured to the outside of the bin.
  • Bridged grain or grain lining the wall of the bin is dangerous and should be handled at a distance.
  • Use a pole to break up bridged grain, and try pounding on the outside of the bin to dislodge grain that clings to bin walls.
  • If the grain is out of condition, poisonous gases may accumulate. If you suspect that the air inside the bin is unsafe, do not try to enter without first sampling the air.

Offering these tips are just one way the college’s Agricultural Safety and Health program works to provide grain safety awareness to growers. It also offers grain safety demonstrations and awareness training for farm families, 4-H youth, agricultural employees and rural communities, McGuire said.

That includes demonstrations using the Grain C.A.R.T. (Community Agricultural Rescue Trailer) — Ohio’s first portable grain rescue simulator. Designed by CFAES faculty and students, the Grain C.A.R.T. is mounted on a 40-foot flatbed trailer and includes a grain bin, grain leg, gravity wagon and other training essentials.

The Grain C.A.R.T. is used statewide by the Ohio Fire Academy in its agricultural rescue direct-delivery training modules to educate first responders on grain bin engulfment

It’s also being used with OSU Extension’s grain bin rescue outreach education program in rural communities to raise awareness among grain industry employees and farm families about the hazards associated with grain handling, he said.

More information on scheduling grain safety awareness programs can be found at agsafety.osu.edu/grain-cart/scheduling.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Kent McGuire