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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Grain Bin Safety Hot Topic at Farm Science Review

August 2, 2007

LONDON, Ohio -- With market prices and ethanol demand on the rise, farmers will be dealing with corn storage issues, along with the hazards associated with grain bin operations. Ohio State University Extension specialists will be at Farm Science Review to help farmers stay safe this harvest.


Dee Jepsen, OSU Extension's state safety leader, and her colleagues are presenting a series of demonstrations and exhibits on various aspects of grain bin safety, including rescue procedures, equipment safety, ladder safety, electrical clearance and control box maintenance. The display, consisting of two mock storage bins, will be located in the Firebaugh Building on Friday Avenue. Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 18-20 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

The grain bin safety topic is part of a more comprehensive program on grain systems handling that includes grain storage, grain handling, grain bin maintenance, and insect control. OSU Extension and Purdue Extension specialists will be presenting such topics at various locations during Farm Science Review.

"Grain storage will be a hot topic this year. As farmers wait for market options and the call from ethanol plants to make corn deliveries, they will be storing more corn," said Jepsen. "More corn storage means more of a need to manage the grain, and that means more exposures to grain bin hazards."

The grain bin safety topic at Farm Science Review will cover the top five grain bin hazards: engulfment, entanglement, falls, electrocution and explosions.

Engulfment can occur when farmers enter a full grain bin and fall into the grain, leading to entrapment or suffocation. Jepsen said an engulfment situation is dangerous because it only takes a matter of seconds to become covered in the grain and tremendous pressure on the body makes it difficult to pull somebody out.

Part of the grain bin safety exhibit will include a grain tug to demonstrate how difficult it is to extract an item from a container of grain.

"The pounds of pressure from the grain can be has high as four times the weight of the item engulfed by the grain," said Jepsen.

Entanglement generally occurs when loose clothing or untied shoelaces get caught in moving equipment. Jepsen said entanglement can happen quite easily when cleaning out bins or sweeping corn grain to the auger.

Falls can occur in situations where ladders are not properly mounted. Grain bins can range in height from 15 feet to 50 feet, so such safety precautions as safety cages and rest platforms are highly recommended, said Jepsen.

Electrocutions happen most often when electrical wires are too close to the grain bin roof.

"Ten feet is considered minimum safe distance from electrical wires. Not only do farmers have to be cautious to not brush up against wires, but they also must remember that electricity can arc from one conduit to another," said Jepsen. "The best thing to do is to spend the extra money and install the electrical needs underground."

Explosions rarely occur in Ohio, but can still happen in larger grain facilities in situations where grain dust levels are high.

"Farmers need to remember that grain dust is highly flammable," said Jepsen. "Maintaining good housekeeping in confined spaces is the best way to keep dust levels down."

Ohio averages close to 30 farm-related fatalities each year. Of that number, less than 2 percent are related to grain bin operations. The goal of the grain bin safety program at Farm Science Review, said Jepsen, is to continue to keep those numbers low.

Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept 18-19 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20. For more information, log on to


Candace Pollock
Dee Jepsen