How to work safely around grain bins

February 21, 2023
Grain Bin Safety Week helps raise awareness about hazards related to on-farm grain storage. Paul Stevenson, senior risk management consultant with Nationwide, offers tips to stay safe.

Working around grain storage facilities is one of the biggest on-farm safety risks for farmers, their families and their employees. Over the past decade, more than 300 grain entrapments have been reported and the actual number of incidents is likely much higher because many incidents are never reported,* according to Paul Stevenson, senior risk management consultant with Nationwide, a leading ag insurer. Grain Bin Safety Week, which takes place in February, helps raise awareness about the dangers associated with on-farm grain storage. Stevenson  says being aware of those hazards can help save lives.

Stay safe around stored grain

Stevenson says grain bin accidents are more likely to happen when farmers are rushed and trying to do too many things at once. “Farmers are busy and need to get things done quickly, so they often go into a grain structure alone. If the grain is in poor condition, that could cause entrapment,” he says. Farmers primarily go into grain structures to deal with poor-quality grain issues, so promoting high-quality storage conditions can help reduce entrapment risks.

To help reduce the risk of grain bin accidents, Stevenson says farmers and others who work on the farm need to slow down and think about potential unsafe actions. “If someone does have to go into a grain structure, make sure there is a plan in place. That includes notifying other on-site employees or family members and ensuring someone is available to supervise,” says Stevenson. “And know when and how to contact emergency support if there is a problem. All of those actions will help you stay safe around grain bins.”

Finally, be mindful of children near grain storage facilities. Stevenson says parents should warn their children of the dangers of playing near grain bins. “We see bins and trailers of corn for kids to play in at local fairs and fall events, and that sends the wrong message to our children. We need to change that mindset because there are hazards associated with those activities,” says Stevenson.

Advocating for grain bin safety

Nationwide supports safe on-farm grain storage with an advocacy program dedicated to education and first-responder training. Each year, the program grants grain rescue tubes and training to nominated first responders. “We’ve given away 272 grain rescue tubes and held first responder training across 31 states through the grain bin safety program. Since 2014, fire departments have successfully used rescue tubes and training to free at least five entrapped workers,” says Stevenson. For more information about grain bin safety or to nominate local first responders to receive grain rescue equipment and training, visit the Nationwide website.