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Grain storage issues this fall create safety risk

Media contact:

Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Story source:

Karen Funkenbusch, 573-884-1268

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Storage issues for this year’s bumper crop increase the risk of deadly grain bin accidents, says University of Missouri Extension rural safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that more than 6 inches of rain soaked parts of Missouri in early October, putting progress on the corn and soybean harvests well below the five-year average.

These delays can cause producers to pay less attention to safety as they rush to get crops out of the field and into the bins, Funkenbusch said. Also, when time gets short, less experienced workers and family members may be called upon to help.

Bin entrapments are sad reminders that grain storage can be deadly, Funkenbusch says. It takes only five seconds for a person to be caught in flowing grain, and less than 20 seconds to be sucked into the center of the grain, buried and suffocated, she said. A child can be buried in far less time.

Moisture content of grain likely will be higher than normal this year. This creates the possibility of increased “crusting” and carbon dioxide poisoning in bins. Crusting creates a firm but unstable top layer of grain that may feel like a hard surface for walking. Flowing grain beneath the crust can quickly engulf and suffocate someone.

Fermentation of wet grain produces large amounts of carbon dioxide. Too much carbon dioxide in the blood can slow down breathing and cause drowsiness, headaches and even death by suffocation. Reduce hazards by opening manholes and doors to force air through the bin.

If you find yourself trapped in grain, cup your hands around your mouth and nose to create an air pocket, Funkenbusch says. This may give you enough time for someone to rescue you.

If possible, move to the edge of the bin. Try to get to the inside ladder of the bin.

Do not attempt to rescue someone who has become entrapped. Many fatal grain bin accidents involve more than one death because would-be rescuers become entrapped themselves. Call 911, turn off the auger or conveyor belt, and turn on fans to increase ventilation. Gather items that emergency personnel can use to keep grain away from the victim.

Funkenbusch makes these recommendations:

• Develop a “zero entry” mentality. Stay out of the bin. If you have to check the grain, don’t go alone.

• Tell others that you are going into the bin. This prevents them from turning on the auger while you are in the bin.

• Check the lockout control devices on the auger before entering the bin.

• Wear a safety harness and have a trained observer with you.

• Do not enter bins while grain is being loaded and unloaded. Wait until the dust clears so you can clearly see your footing before entering.

For more information, see the MU Extension publication “Safe Storage and Handling of Grain” (G1969), available for free download at

Show-Me Farm Safety at offers information and videos. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers information on grain handling safety at