Safe grain bin entry procedures
Entering a grain bin is one of the most dangerous jobs on the farm. However, with year-round attention to strong grain storage management practices, you can stay safe when working in bins and cut down on the reasons you need to enter them altogether.
This includes learning about safety products and services on the market that can help reduce the need to enter a grain bin. And if you must enter a bin, other products that can help you get the job done safely.
Pay close attention to these safety variables
If you or your workers can avoid entering a bin, that’s normally the best option. If you absolutely must go inside a bin, pay close attention to these factors to stay safe:
- Monitor air quality. Use an air monitor to make sure there is at least 19.5% oxygen within the bin. If not, the bin must be ventilated until there is at least 19.5% oxygen in the air. Learn more about the hazards of poor air quality.
- Power down all equipment. The power to the auger must be turned off and locked so it can’t be turned on while someone is in the bin. Lockout/tagout can help ensure equipment is powered down and won’t put workers at risk.
- Wear a body harness. Everyone entering a bin needs to be tied off and wearing a full body harness. This will ensure the person going into the bin is secure. Wearing a harness also limits the distance a worker can fall into the bin or become trapped.
Never work alone. Working in a bin requires at least two people — the person entering the bin and a reliable attendant outside the space whose one and only job is to watch the person inside the bin. If the person in the bin become unresponsive or trapped, the attendant should not enter the bin, but call for emergency services. Learn more about the dangers of working in and around bins alone.
Wear the right personal protective equipment
Experts recommend having PPE on hand, even if bin entry is not required. Nationwide and the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) do not endorse specific products, so please do your own research to determine the PPE that best align with your safety needs
Here are the common types of PPE, including estimated costs, that farm workers and local public safety officials should keep on hand when working around grain bins.
- Gloves: $10
- Eye protection (safety glasses, safety goggles, full face shield): $5 to $50
- Full face mask: $200
- Dust canister: $50
- Half mask: $20
- Dust filter: $5
- Harness: $150 - 400
- Safety line: $2/ft
- Mechanical winch (personnel-rated: $2,000)
Make sure your public health officials have these on hand
In addition to products like the Sump Saver, here’s a list of essential PPE, including estimated costs, for farm employers or public safety officials to have on hand to help preserve worker health and safety. If you don’t have this equipment on the farm, contact your local public safety or law enforcement office to confirm it is available in the event of an emergency.
- Oxygen meter: $200 to $300
- Combustible gas meter: $800 to $2,500
- Drop light and flashlight (class II-G for grain dust): $30 to $50
- Rescue wall: $3,000
- Rescue auger: $800
- Platforms: $20 each
- Rescue harness: $300 to $500
No two farms are identical. If you’re adding safety equipment to your farm, start by determining what you are missing and consider your workforce and what you need to keep them completely safe when working around grain bins. To learn more about grain bin safety, visit the MyNSightOnline Grain Bin Safety Resource Center.
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