Farmers and commercial-grain handlers should follow OSHA's Grain Handling Standard, which includes a grain bin entry permit.

Entering a grain bin is extremely hazardous. It takes less than five seconds to become helplessly trapped in flowing grain and less than 30 seconds to become fully engulfed — unable to breathe. But grain bin hazards aren’t limited to entrapment or engulfment. Suffocation can result from exposure to toxic gases — and entanglements and amputations from contact with sweep augers.

Grain bin accidents can tragically impact individuals, families and entire communities. We encourage you to read Drowning in Corn – The story of one teenager's near-death experience inside the grain bin that killed his friends.

Stories like that are why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) took a strong stance to make the grain industry safer. In 1987, OSHA promulgated its Grain Handling Standard (29 CFR 1910.272) that required employers to follow specific precautions, such as issuing a bin entry permit or requiring the employer be present during the entire entry. It not only helps keep workers safe, but helps employers avoid costly fines.

Grain Bin Entry Permit requirements include:

  • Locking out and tagging equipment
  • Testing the atmosphere
  • Venting when necessary
  • Wearing a respirator when necessary
  • Utilizing an observer
  • Providing rescue equipment
  • Prohibiting the walking down of grain
  • Wearing a body harness connected to a lifeline
  • Restricting entry beneath bridging or side buildup

“But I’m a farmer!” you may say. “OSHA doesn’t apply to me.” Technically, that may be true depending upon your operation.

However, no matter how many farm employees you may have, Nationwide recommends all farmers to follow proper grain bin entry precautions. Here’s why:

In 2013, there were 32 recorded grain entrapment cases where the exemption status of the facility was known. Of those, 23 (70%) occurred on farms or other locations currently exempt from the OSHA Grain Handling Facilities Standard (29 CFR 1910.272), with the balance of 8 (27%) taking place at non-exempt commercial grain facilities. As in past years, it should be noted that this summary does not reflect all grain-related entrapments, fatal or non-fatal that have occurred. Currently over two-thirds of grain storage capacity in the U.S. is found on farms that are exempt from the current OSHA reporting requirement standards. Historically, the annual summaries have reported that approximately 70% of cases, where the determination could be made, have occurred at exempt facilities, primarily farms.

Source: Purdue University, Agricultural Safety and Health Program,2013 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities

When you combine the above statistics with the facts that two-thirds of U.S. grain storage occurs on farms and that experts are projecting the deadliest year for grain engulfments since 2010, we hope you see the importance of doing everything possible to prevent a tragic situation from happening.

Developing a “zero-entry” mentality is always the best policy. But we understand there are times when someone MUST enter a grain bin. Before bin entry occurs, we strongly recommend all entrants to be trained on identifying grain bin hazards and follow the requirements outlined in grain bin entry and training and the bin entry permit.

Thank you for your support of Grain Bin Safety Week and for everything you do to keep yourself and others safe.

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