Don’t enter a bin when unloading or breaking up a mass of grain. Anyone who works around grain bins needs to know the dangers of stored grain.

“A lot of wetter-than-normal corn went into storage last fall, and wet corn is more prone to crusting or creating a wall of grain near the grain bin wall,” said Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer. “This increases the potential for bin-unloading problems and getting trapped by the grain.”

People can become trapped in three ways: by flowing grain, the collapse of a vertical wall of grain and the collapse of bridged grain.

Bridging occurs when the grain sticks together and forms a crust over an open cavity that can form whenever grain is removed from the bin. However, the crust isn’t strong enough to support a person’s weight. Bridging also transfers more of the load to the bin wall, which may lead to bin failure during unloading.

Remember:

  • Grain kernels may stick together in a grain bin, forming a crust. When grain is removed, a hollow can form under the crust, creating a bridge. That bridge can collapse under a person's weight and bury the person in seconds.
  • Grain kernels may stick together in a grain bin, forming a crust. When grain is removed, a hollow can form under the crust, creating a bridge. That bridge can collapse under a person’s weight and bury the person in seconds.
  • Never enter a bin while unloading grain or to break up a grain bridge. A wall of grain can collapse without warning and cover a person in a few seconds.
  • After partially unloading a bin, look for a funnel shape on the grain surface. If the surface appears undisturbed, the grain has bridged and a cavity has formed underneath.
  • Stay outside the bin and use a pole or other object to break up bridged grain. Attach the pole or other object to the bin with a rope so you can retrieve the pole or other object if you drop it.
  • When breaking up a grain wall or other large mass from the top of the bin or through the bin door, do not break up more than is necessary to keep the grain from crashing into the wall or flowing out through the door.
  • Do not unload grain from an opening in the grain bin door or the sump on the side of the grain bin. Unloading grain from the side can damage the bin and cause it to collapse.
  • Do not allow people to work around stored grain until warning them about the hazards.
  • Never enter a bin without stopping the auger and using the “lock-out/tag-out” procedures to secure it. Use a key-type padlock to lock the auger switch in the “off” position.
  • Never enter a grain bin alone. Have at least two people ready outside the bin to assist in case of problems. Use a safety harness and line when entering a bin.