Two of the most common on-farm hazards related to grain bins are:
Falls inside or outside of a grain bin or storage structure can occur when workers are accessing ladders, catwalks or other elevated walking surfaces and bin roof entrances.
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Legislation requires an employer to develop a fall protection plan if a worker may fall three meters or more and are not protected by guardrails.
There are a lot of older grain bins that continue to be used because they are structurally sound; however, it is very likely they are not built to the standards of today's bins, for example:
- Ladder rungs may be too close to the bin wall
- There may not be a roof ladder to reach the bin lid
- It may be lacking anchor points for tie off when using fall protective equipment
- The weight loading on the ladder may be underrated, etc.
Additional concerns might include rust or possible damage incurred over the years. What can you do to help prevent falls?
A fall protection plan is actually quite simple and is an excellent tool for ensuring all of your safety measures are in place.
- Identifying the fall hazards at the worksite
- The Fall Protection System to be used at the worksite
- Anchors to be used during the work
- Verification that clearance distances below the work area will prevent the person from hitting the ground, another work level or an object below
- Procedures to assemble, maintain, inspect, use and disassemble the fall protection system
- Rescue procedures to be used if a worker falls and is suspended by a personal fall arrest system or safety net; It is important to remember that when a person falls and is caught by their harness, their circulation is restricted causing what is called suspension trauma which can lead to circulatory shock and potentially be fatal
There are many steps that you can take to reduce the risk of working at heights. The best option is always to eliminate going up where possible. This can be done by:
- Installing automatic grain bin lid openers
- Installing high level detectors such as a rotary or diaphragm switch to indicate when the bin is full, or
- Installing remote grain monitors to check temperature, moisture and CO2 levels
Remember…Good Grain Quality = Safety + Profit!
With regards to ladder use when someone must go up, there are addition points to keep in mind:
- Pre-inspect ladders
- Use 3 Points of Contact
- Wear non-slip footwear
- Face rungs and don’t reach
- Use tool belts or pulleys to carry tools and equipment
- If your task requires the use of a portable ladder, place the ladder footings on level, solid ground and remember the 4:1 rule (for every 4 feet high, place the base of the ladder one foot away from the structure)
As before, when someone must to go up, ways to reduce the risk include:
- Installing guard rails, ladder cages, steps or other means to prevent the fall from happening
- Completing a fall protection plan and have a rescue plan in place and practiced
- Using the correct PPE and inspect it before and after use
- Training workers and supervisors in safe work practices, procedures, hazard recognition, hazard control measures
and Emergency Response Plans specific to your farm
Entrapment or Engulfment
When someone is entrapped, they are partially submerged and cannot get out; it takes less than five seconds to become entrapped in a grain bin and less than 60 seconds to become completely submerged and die of suffocation.
There are multiple reasons for entering a grain bin:
- Checking feed condition
- Taking samples of grain
- Verifying that new grain will preserve
- Performing a rescue
- Needing to clean the bin
- Attempting to locate hotspots
Ways to prevent grain bin entrapment or engulfment:
- Train workers and supervisors in safe work practices, procedures, hazard recognition, hazard control measures, confined space entry, your farm's permit system and Emergency Response Plans
- Ensure that an attendant is stationed outside the bin, is in direct contact with the person working inside the bin, is trained in the emergency response procedures and knows who to contact in the event of an emergency
- Lock Out Tag Out and de-energize all grain entry points and equipment, such as the sweeper auger and the subfloor auger
- Establish a work zone; post signage warning of the hazards and flag or rope off the area as appropriate to keep unauthorized individuals from entering