Grain Safety

Provide Training
Companies are required under the grain handling standard to provide training to employees on the specific procedures and safety practices for entering and working in grain storage structures. At minimum the training should include: 

  • Engulfment hazards associated with entering and working and how to avoid them (i.e. flowing grain, bridging, out-of-condition grain).
  • Lockout/tagout procedures specific for each piece of equipment.
  • Proper use of an oxygen meter or procedures for ventilating to alleviate oxygen-deficient atmospheres/toxic atmospheres or proper use of a respirator.
  • How and when to use a full-body harness and lifeline.
  • Rescue procedures and how to obtain additional help in emergencies.
  • How communication will be implemented (between employees entering and the observer) while working in the storage structure.
  • Informing employees of unsafe work practices that are prohibited, such as walking down grain, standing on moving grain, or entering under bridging or avalanche conditions.
Issue a Permit
Employers are required to issue a permit that certifies that bin-entry precautions have been implemented. These include locking out the augers, testing or ventilating the air in the bin, providing a lifeline and a full-body harness and making sure the observer is in place.
Lockout/Tagout All Unloading Equipment
This is required to prevent the unexpected start-up of equipment when someone is inside the structure. This includes all equipment such as augers, as well as gravity gates.
Atmospheric Testing/Ventilating
The atmosphere inside a storage structure is required to be tested if it is suspected that combustible gases, vapors, or toxic agents are present.
Also, the structure must be tested for oxygen content unless there is continuous natural air movement or forced ventilation (i.e. ventilation fans) before and during the entry.
If ventilation cannot remove the toxic atmosphere or low oxygen content, then a respirator must be used.
Wear Protective Equipment
Employees are required to be equipped with a full-body harness and lifeline or boatswain's chair whenever entering from a point that is higher than the grain (i.e. entering from above) or when an employee walks on grain that is deep enough to cause an engulfment hazard.
OSHA requires that the lifeline be positioned so that it would prevent the employee from sinking further than waist-deep in the grain.
OSHA states that a lifeline/harness is not needed if the employer can demonstrate that it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard than one posed by engulfment.

The employer is then required to provide an alternative means of protection to prevent employees from sinking further than waist-deep in the grain.

Provide an Observer
Bin entry requires at least two people (one in and out). The observer must be equipped to provide assistance and must maintain visual, voice, or radio contact at all times during the entry. They must also be trained in rescue procedures, included procedures for summoning help.

Follow safe grain storage structure entry procedures required in the OSHA Grain Handling Standard 1910.272.

(Source: March 20, 2020, Grain and Feed Association of Illinois (GFAI) Safety, Health, Environmental Service Update newsletter.)