MISSISSIPPI STATE – With Mississippi’s bumper corn crop on target to break records, proper post-harvest handling is essential, especially efforts to prevent deaths by grain entrapment.
As farmers plant more grain crops, on-site storage bins are popping up all over the state.
“We’re handling more corn than ever before in our history, and proper handling of all grain crops can help reduce the number of accidents related to grain bin storage,” said Jason Ward, an Extension associate in Mississippi State University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. “Grain bin accidents are 100 percent preventable.”
Ward said moisture, mold growth or grain degradation can clump together corn, rice, soybean or wheat grains. Temperature differences between air inside and outside the grain bin cause moisture to migrate either to the walls of the bin or to the center. Grain can stick to the walls or form a solid core within the bin that keeps grain from flowing smoothly while unloading.
Ward said farmers or employees sometimes climb into the bin and try to dislodge grain with a long metal pole, unaware of the potential dangers.
Grain bins, or silos, can turn into death traps when the grain breaks loose and turns into an avalanche, suffocating or crushing the worker. Air inside the tightly constructed bins can also be hazardous and flammable.
“If someone stands at the bottom and tries to get grain off the sides of the bin, he can become engulfed in grain when it gives way,” he said. “If he’s standing on top of a pile of grain to break through a crust, or a section of bridged grain breaks loose beneath him, he can suddenly fall into a cavity, with grain sliding in on top of him.”
A person can be entrapped within seconds. Because many farmers work alone and are not required to use safety equipment, the danger is even greater.
“I always say the first rule of entering a bin is don’t ever go into a bin,” Ward said. “Since that is not realistic, I tell people never to go in a bin alone. Make sure someone knows you are in there. Make sure the augers are turned off, locked and tagged with a note letting others know you are in the bin. Make sure the fans are turned on to keep fresh air circulating.”
Ward said a three-person team should work on the problem: one at the top by the door, one on the grain wearing a safety harness or rope, and one on the ground to get help if needed.