Production Blog

Bin There, Don't Do That

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Grain bins are critical tool for farmers to manage grain marketing, but they need to be respected from a safety standpoint. (DTN photo by Elaine Shein)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- I don't have to look beyond my own family to illustrate how easily grain bin accidents can happen.

My father fell while closing the top of a bin. Fortunately he slid face first down the sloped bin top and managed to catch the rim and dangle vertically for what he said seemed a lifetime, but was probably merely seconds. Unable to hang on, he attempted to spot a landing, but the concrete pad was unforgiving. Talented doctors put his shattered leg and ankle back together again, but he lives with the aftermath. Since that happened, I've heard many stories about other falls that did not end as well. He was lucky.

Lucky isn't good enough and that's why we have events like Grain Bin Safety Week. Reminders of the importance of proper grain bin safety procedures aren't as fun to write about as weed control or nitrogen management, but this is life and death.

Much of the focus is on grain entrapment, but we all know that augers and gravity wagons and even cleaning empty bins of moldy grain can have safety implications.

A Purdue study this week found the number of confirmed grain bin entrapments and incidents in other confined spaces on U.S. farms fell in 2015 to its lowest level in a decade. However, Bill Field, Purdue professor of agricultural safety and health, said many such cases go unreported. There's no mandatory reporting system for confined space incidents.

Nationwide, 47 confined space incidents were reported last year, a 34% decrease from 2014, when 71 cases were confirmed, according to Purdue's annual Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities. It was the fewest number of reported confined space cases since 46 were recorded in 2006.

The number of fatalities fell from 31 in 2014 to 25 last year, the study said.

Grain entrapments were once again the most common type of confined space incident -- claiming 14 lives in 2015. Entrapments typically happen when a farm worker enters a bin or silo to dislodge clumps of grain during loading or unloading and becomes engulfed when the grain breaks loose, Field said.

Other types of confined space incidents covered in the report were:

* Six entanglements in machinery resulting in one death.

* Six falls resulting in three deaths.

* Four cases of asphyxiation or poisoning resulting in four deaths.

* Four cases of being submersed in water or other liquid resulting in four deaths.

* Three cases of being pinned or struck by a heavy object resulting in one death.

This National Corn Growers Association video (…) highlights the importance of proper bin safety procedures. A free DVD of the video can be requested by sending an email with your name and mailing address to (while supplies last). The video was co-produced with the National Grain and Feed Foundation, the research and education arm of the National Grain and Feed Association.

In conjunction with Grain Bin Safety Week (Feb 21 -- 27, 2016), Nationwide Insurance has teamed up with a host of partners to offer a contest that provides first responders with grain bin rescue tubes and specialized grain rescue training to help save lives when farmers and other workers become entrapped in grain bins. Rural fire fighters are often the first and only line of defense when someone becomes helplessly trapped in a grain bin. Unfortunately, many fire departments lack the specialized rescue techniques and equipment necessary for a successful grain bin rescue.

Entries must be posted before May 31, 2016. To enter, fully describe how the department or emergency rescue team and rural community would benefit from grain entrapment training and rescue tube, and how they plan to share the tube and training with nearby departments. Include your name, occupation, phone number, mailing and email address, the name, address and phone number of the fire department or team. Learn more about this program here:…

Purdue has a list of companies that make grain rescue tubes:…

Pamela Smith can be reached at



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