Did you know flowing grain moves like quicksand? It can take less than 20 seconds for an adult to get completely engulfed, and suffocate.

“Anyone who enters a storage structure containing grain, or who climbs onto an outdoor grain storage pile is at risk of being entrapped or engulfed,†said Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative at COUNTRY Financial.

To help prevent tragedies like this from occurring, COUNTRY Financial is partnering with the Grain Handling Safety Coalition to raise awareness of the safety risks America’s agricultural workers face every day on the job. This is especially important during this year’s National Farm Safety and Health Week which runs Sept. 17-23, and focuses on “Putting Farm Safety into Practice.â€

As reported by The National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD), grain engulfment has been a recognized hazard for decades. Yet agricultural workers of all levels continue to underestimate deadly risks associated with the speed and force of flowing or shifting grain.

According to The NASD:

  • It only takes four seconds for an adult to sink knee deep in flowing grain
  • At this point, the worker can’t free themselves without help
  • An adult can be completely buried in less than 20 seconds
  • Most engulfed victims don’t survive

“Most injuries and deaths are preventable if you have some basic safety knowledge and put it into practice,†said Vanasdale.

The following are some simple steps ag workers can take to better prepare for grain safety incidents when entry is absolutely necessary:

  1. Provide regular training. Train workers on grain storage hazards and risks involved with entering a grain storage bin or facility. Training should include recognizing grain quality problems, proper bin entry procedures, use of safety equipment, and emergency response, before allowing access to a bin or storage structure.
  1. Have an emergency rescue plan in place and follow it. The plan should include having cell phones on site and emergency numbers posted for local emergency responders who are trained in bin rescue.
  1. Shut down all grain loading and unloading equipment (turnheads, reclaim conveyors, augers) and lock out the power sources to them. Following lockout/tagout procedures can prevent most significant grain handling related fatalities. If mechanical and pneumatic grain moving equipment cannot be locked out, then do not enter.
  1. Evaluate the atmosphere. Use a gas meter to check for adequate oxygen content in the bin and the presence of toxic gases like carbon monoxide (which can be present if there is combustion or smoldering grain), fumigants, or excessive carbon dioxide. If the air in the bin smells like spoiled or moldy grain, assume there are dangerous bridges or vertical grain walls that can collapse. If grain is out of condition, or the atmosphere conditions cannot be determined, then do not enter.

For more information, visit grainsafety.org.