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Grain handling safety

Grain handling safety

Grain workers risk suffocation, falls, entanglement, fires, explosions, electrocutions, and injuries from improperly guarded machinery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, grain and oilseed milling workers in the U.S. suffered 500 work-related injuries and two deaths in 2019. These accidents often occur within seconds. The following safety tips can prevent a major cause of granary injuries and deaths: suffocation from getting buried or trapped in grain bins.

1 Wear a body harness.

When entering a grain or feed bin, always wear a body harness tethered to a lifeline. Operate the lifeline with two people outside the bin.

2 Never enter a bin of flowing grain.

If a worker drops equipment in a bin, stop the grain flow and use proper harness techniques to get the item. 

3 Never stand on “bridged” grain.

When the surface of stored grain gets moldy or caked, it can form a bridge, or hard crust, on top of loose grain. As unloading begins, bridged grain can collapse, quickly trapping and suffocating workers. Use proper harness techniques and strike the grain surface with a pole or long-handled tool before entry.

4 Turn off all power equipment before entering a grain or feed bin.

Use lockout/tagout procedures to ensure machines, such as augers, are turned off, de-energized, and inoperative before entering a bin. Moving grain acts like quicksand and can quickly bury a worker. It takes four to five seconds before a worker is trapped and only 22 seconds before they are completely covered. If the bin unloads using gravity flow instead of energized machinery, lock the control gate to keep grain from flowing.

5 Stay near the outside wall.

If trapped but not buried, stay near the outside wall, and walk around the storage bin as the grain moves downward.

For more information on granary safety, download DWC’s free publications on Grain Auger Safety and Grain Handling Safety at

Contact a DWC Safety Training Specialist at or 1-800-252-7031, option 2, for information on customized grain handling safety training.



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Last updated: 1/31/2024