Machinery Chatter

Know the Dangers of Flowing Grain

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A display at the Asmark Institute in Bloomington, Illinois, makes plain that stored grain can be a deadly environment without proper safety precautions. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

When I was a kid, my dad and uncle would store grain in both a metal grain bin and the old corncrib on our place. If you ever stored grain in a corn crib, you know you always spent some time (actually probably a lot of time) scooping the grain out since there is no unloading auger in those structures.

It was probably during these hours of scooping grain with them that my dad would tell me the dangers of flowing grain, so much that I would be rather nervous to help unload the bins the next time. Of course, he would quickly point out it is safer to work with others; my nervousness was not enough of an excuse to get out of helping them clean out the bins.

Knowing the dangers of flowing grain is a good way to remain safe when working around grain storage facilities, according to a Penn State University Extension report titled "Hazards of Flowing Grain". It's written by Davis Hill, Penn State Extension senior extension associate.

The primary cause of entrapment occurs during unloading when a person enters a bin to loosen crusted, spoiled or frozen grain while the equipment is running. Out-of-condition corn was cited as the major factor in most entrapments.

A person within a bin can be pulled knee deep into the column of grain within a few seconds.

Once the person's knees are covered by grain, it is impossible to become free without the assistance of others. If the knees are covered and the grain is still flowing, the flowing grain is similar to quicksand. It can completely engulf a person and result in suffocation.

An example of this would be a bin with a 10-inch unloading auger. Eight-five cubic feet of grain per minute can be moved. or about 68 bushels per minute, according to Penn State Extension. A person who is 6 feet tall will sink into the grain past the knees and become helpless in less than five seconds, and can be completely submerged in less than 20 seconds.

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Most people cannot pull another person out of a grain bin with a rope even if standing next to the entrapped person, the report stated. Once a person becomes entrapped, it takes much more force than you would expect to pull someone out of the grain.

At 1 foot depth, it would take 170 pounds of force to pull a 165 lb. adult out. At 3 feet, it takes 300 lbs. of force, while at 5 feet it would take 625 lbs. of force, and at 6 feet (or full submerged) it would take a staggering 900 lbs. of force to pull a person from the corn.

Steps can be taken to reduce the risk of grain bin entrapment. Penn State Extension recommends:

-- Place entrapment warning decals on grain bins and grain transport vehicles.

-- Prevent unauthorized entry to grain bins and vehicles, especially by children.

-- Make sure all workers and children are aware of entrapment hazards.

-- Keep grain in proper condition.

-- Use inspection holes or grain bin level markers instead of entering a grain bin.

-- Enter a grain bin only if it is absolutely necessary. Use a body harness secured to the outside of the bin.

-- Use a pole to break up possible grain bridges from the outside of the bin.

-- Lockout/Tag-out all auger controls before entering the bin.

-- Have at least two observers present during grain bin entry.

-- Establish a form of nonverbal communication with observers such as hand signals.

-- Work from the top to bottom when cleaning grain bin walls.

For more information from Penn State Extension on the hazards of flowing grain, visit https://extension.psu.edu/….

(JP/ES/)

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