Importance of grain bin safety

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 9:48 PM CDT
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Two people were killed in North Dakota in the last week from grain bin accidents. This brings the state total to three for 2020 already surpassing last year.

"Anytime you are on grain, the potential for it to shift, for it to fall away, for it to encapsulate you is very high," said Benjamin Willey, Fargo Fire Department Training Captain.

Dozens of accidents where people become trapped inside grain bins happen each year. In 2019, there were 13 incidents in Minnesota and 2 in North Dakota, according to Purdue University.

Experts warn that these incidents come with a high risk of being fatal as the contents can crush or suffocate the person trapped inside.

"Once it starts to flow, it becomes very fluid,” Willey said. “It can take you in and encapsulate you in less than three to four seconds depending on the pile. Once you are entrapped, it’s the same with soils or any type of aggregates. Once you are trapped up to your knees, you can’t possibly free yourself."

Minnesota reported the most grain entrapment cases out of any state for 2019.

When totaling up the number of cases dating back to 1962 for each state, North Dakota stands high on the list at 11th.

To avoid a continued spike in 2020, safety is a top priority from wearing the proper gear to taking extra precautions.

"If the bin is set up properly, it should have a fall restraint and also safety lines to tether the entrant to a high point so if there is any type of crusting that collapses, that person is prevented from falling in the grain," Willey said.

One of the most important safety tips is the buddy system. If someone does go into the grain bin, make sure someone else stays outside. That way if something does happen, they can call for help when seconds matter.

Experts also recommend installing a permanent life-line hanging from the center of the bin as a last line of security.

However, the top recommendation is to stay out of the bin altogether.