During the fall grain harvest millions of bushels of grain flow from field to storage, but it only takes a matter of seconds for one person to become trapped in the grain flow.
Grain entrapments are a dangerous situation, one that most people may not be aware of when handling grain. Flowing grain can draw in farm workers and family members within 5 seconds and cause them to be trapped. Most adults are helpless when trapped at knee level. The further down the person is buried, the more strength is needed to pull the person out.
"The force required to remove someone buried below the surface of grain easily can exceed 2,000 pounds, which is about the same as lifting a small car," says Charles Schwab, Iowa State University Extension safety specialist. Children are more at risk around flowing grain. Because they are shorter, children would be buried faster and are helpless at shallower levels.
Beware of how grain can entrap you
Grain entrapment inside a grain bin can happen in several ways. Submersion in flowing grain occurs when an opening in the unloading gate causes the grain to act like quicksand, pulling a person under within seconds. A grain bridge, due to frozen or spoiled grain, can collapse, causing a person to fall and be buried alive. A third area of concern is an avalanche of a vertical grain wall, occurring when the grain breaks free and covers a person.
The easiest way to reduce the risk of grain entrapment is prevention, says Schwab. He recommends these tips to avoid the dangers of flowing grain. First, never allow children to play in grain bins or ride on grain wagons. Always lock access doors to grain storage structures and shut off power to all grain handling equipment. Most importantly, never work alone when loading or unloading grain.