Growth in Grain Storage Prompts Safety Reminder to Farmers

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — On-farm grain storage is on the rise with additional bins being built on farms and on commercial sites, creating a greater risk of fatal mishaps for individuals working in and around them.

The checkoff organizations of Nebraska’s corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum industries and their respective associations remind farmers and agricultural workers to be safe in and around grain bins during the recent Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week, according to a news release.

Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week that concluded April 2 is organized through an alliance between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Grain and Feed Association, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society, and the Grain Handling Safety Council.

Ron Pughes, director of Adams County Emergency Management, encouraged farmers to take this week to evaluate safety precautions used around grain bins. He said farmers should be aware of the risks and not become complacent.

There are several hazards associated with grain bins, including engulfments and entanglements, according to the Hastings Tribune.

An entanglement could occur when farmers or agricultural employees work in close proximity to grain augers. The danger in operating an auger is getting caught in a moving part.

An engulfment happens when grain flows downward and forms a funnel, pulling a person down to the point of full immersion. Once immersed, the victim could be suffocated.

Pughes recalled an incident two years ago when emergency personnel responded to a man trapped in a grain bin near Kenesaw. Multiple agencies responded to the scene and used a rescue tube to help save him.

A rescue tube is constructed in three panels, which are placed around the victim to prevent the weight of the grain from crushing the chest and keep the victim from going under the grain. Once the rescue tube was in place in the Kenesaw incident, they were able to remove the grain and get the man out of the bin.

While that rescue was successful, Pughes said, time is of the essence with a grain bin rescue. In a matter of minutes, a victim can be engulfed in grain.

“There are more times it’s a recovery rather than a rescue,” he said. “A lot of times, by the time we get there, it’s too late.”

Following that incident, Pughes said, area volunteer fire departments received rescue tubes to aid in the rescue of a person trapped in grain.

Fortunately, he said, calls for rescue are infrequent.

With the proper safety procedures, grain bin incidents are preventable. It is important to follow all the safety rules when it comes to working with grain stored in bins. Here are a few grain bin safety tips to keep in mind when you are working with stored grain:

Use inspection holes or grain level markers to understand what is happening inside the bin. Use a pole from outside the bin to break up grain bridges.

You should enter a grain bin only if absolutely necessary. If you must get into the bin, use a body harness secured to the outside of the bin. Have at least two people watching over you as you enter and work inside the bin.

Use hand signals to communicate _ and make sure everyone you are working with knows what those signals are.

“We know farmers are anxious to get back in the fields this spring, so many are now busy working with their previous crops stored on-farm,” said Bob Delsing, chairman of the Nebraska Wheat Board and farmer from Hemingford. “By dedicating a week to the importance of grain bin safety, we can hopefully serve as that friendly reminder to always be prepared, knowledgeable and responsible when working in and around grain bins.”

Throughout the week, Nebraska’s corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum checkoffs and their respective grower associations shared grain bin safety tips from their social media channels. More information also can be found at

“Farming is one of the most hazardous industries we have in the United States,” said David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Friend. “We often hear of unimaginable accidents in agriculture because there are a lot of moving parts and large pieces of machinery to work with. Nebraska Corn regularly reminds farmers to take a second for safety, because many accidents and fatalities can be prevented with just a little added caution.”

About the photo: This April 2021 photo shows a grain bin east of Juniata, Neb. Several Nebraska agricultural commodity organizations are working to increase awareness of safety issues for individuals working in and around the bins. (Andy Raun/The Hastings Tribune via AP)