PUTNAM COUNTY — This third week of February officially kicks off Grain Bin Safety Week. Grain bins on local farms pose a significant safety hazard because stored grains move like flowing water and can entrap or engulf individuals very quickly. Each year, numerous accidents and deaths involving youth and adults in grain bins and grain wagons can be avoided by using caution and proper grain handling practices.

Grain entrapment occurs when a person is buried in grain to the point where they cannot remove themselves without assistance. An adult buried up to their waist in grain requires over 300 pounds of force to remove them! This is not easily accomplished and often requires first responders to use a grain bin rescue tube. The tube completely surrounds the trapped individual to prevent additional grain from filling in around them.

Grain engulfment occurs when someone is completely buried by grain. Engulfment often results in death because the heavy grain puts pressure on the trapped person’s lungs and reduces their capacity to breath, often leading to suffocation.

Over half of accidents involving grain bins occur with stored corn and when farmers try to dislodge crusted grain. A crust forms overtop of grain that is stored wet or becomes moist when rainwater leaks into grain bins. Crusting of grain at the top of the bin forms a grain bridge. When grain is removed from the bottom of the bin, the top crust remains and a hollow space develops underneath. When a farmer walks on what appears to be a solid crusted surface, he does not realize that there is a hollow space beneath him. He can easily break through the crust and be buried by flowing grain from the surrounding sides.

Entrapment also occurs when farmers try to remove crusted grain from along bin walls. Once the crusted surface is disturbed, the buildup of grain behind the crust causes a an avalanche of grain that can bury anyone inside the bin.

Another common accident involves children riding or playing on top of grain carts and wagons, often unnoticed by others handling the farm equipment. If someone opens the wagon gate with a child or adult on top of the grain, the force of gravity can quickly pull them into the grain, much like quicksand, and render them helpless.

Farmers can follow these key steps to help prevent grain bin and wagon accidents: Good management practices to prevent these accidents include storing grain in tight bins (no leaks) at less than 14% moisture for corn. Storing grain at moisture levels above 17% can cause clumping and the need to physically dislodge clumped grain.

Avoid entering grain bins altogether. If you must enter a grain bin, shut off power to grain-handling equipment before entering. Always use the buddy system when working around or in a grain bin and notify at least one other person of your whereabouts. Use a body harness or lifeline to limit sinking in grain. Never allow children to play around or ride atop of grain wagons or inside grain bins.

For additional information, please call our office for assistance at 419-523-6294, by email at Scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.