COLUMBIA, Mo. – This is one of the most dangerous times of the year for farmers, says University of Missouri Extension safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch. Grain Bin Safety Week is Feb. 19-25.

Farmers usually check and empty grain bins during late winter and early spring. This routine job is the source of many on-farm accidents and deaths, Funkenbusch says.

The perfect storm exists for more grain bin accidents since farmers are storing more grain on-farm than ever before. Low prices and surplus grain motivates farmers to store grain longer in hopes for higher prices, says MU Extension natural resources engineer Charles Ellis. He spoke recently at the Audrain County Soils Crop Conference in Mexico.

The U.S. Grains Council reported that the 2016 corn crop contained a higher moisture content and required more drying than the previous year’s crop. Wet grain causes farmers to enter bins more often to check for crusting, spoilage and other issues.

Funkenbusch says grain bin accident prevention depends on a “zero entry” mentality. Do not go into bins unless necessary and do not go alone, she says. Postpone grain bin entry until someone else can be with you. Grain bin entrapment occurs in seconds and more than half of all entrapments result in deaths. “Farmers put themselves at grave risk when they work alone, especially when working around grain bins,” Funkenbusch says.

Lockout-tagout is a simple, inexpensive method to make sure that equipment such as augers are turned off before entry. Lockout-tagout kits cost $100 to $1,000. “The expense is small compared to the cost of saving lives,” Funkenbusch says.

Grain Bin Safety Week is a good time to remind family members about the dangers of grain bins, Funkenbusch says. Children should not be allowed on grain-handling work sites. The curious nature of children means they act impulsively and take risks, she says. While playing, they can become entrapped in grain bins or bin equipment such as augers.

Funkenbusch says it is also important to remind farm visitors of the dangers of grain bins. “Grandchildren, neighbor children and young friends of the family likely are unfamiliar with the dangers on the farm. They may see the grain bins or grain wagons as fun places to play hide-and-seek, climb or turn on equipment to see how it works.”

Funkenbusch also suggests that farmers research new farm technology for automated grain bin management.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that fatalities for farm workers and laborers in crop, nursery and greenhouse operations rose 33 percent in 2015.

For more information on grain bin safety: