Dying in Grain Bins, Silos, and Manure Pits

If you're interested in ag safety, check out the article in the Journal of Agricultural Safety & Health  that looks at the details of more than 1200 "confined space" deaths and injuries in agriculture from 1964 to 2010.

Over 65% of the cases resulted in one or more deaths, and 71% were in grain storage facilities.  The analysis suggests that the number of cases is increasing rather dramatically over the last many years, though I would suggest that part of that trend might be attributed to better reporting about these kinds of incidents.  You can find an abstract for this article on "PubMed" maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

Grain bins, silos, manure pits are all common on-farm confined spaces.  When these types of structures are located off of farms (in factories, refineries, etc.) confined spaces are tightly regulated with an elaborate set of protocols required to enter them safely.

The National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD) contains detailed, farm-specific information to improve safety in these types of facilities and structures. Documents such as "Grain Bin Entrapment" can be used as training information for workers and family members.

Here are a few ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL recommendations.  Take time to learn more.  

  • Warn family, employees, and visitors of the dangers of flowing grain.
  • Place warning decals on all bin entrances and gravity wagons.
  • Have an established form of nonverbal communication. It is difficult to hear over the equipment noise.
  • Turn off and lock out power controls (see Lockout/Tagout Module) to unloading conveyors before entering a bin.
  • Always use a body harness with a lifeline secured to the outside of the bin, and have at least two observers during bin entry.
  • Secure grain storage areas to prevent unauthorized entry.

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