I came across an article which describes DIY system for unclogging grain bin augers from outside of the bin. This is a big deal in terms of improving safety, since entering a grain bin to remove clogs is one of the most dangerous tasks on the farm. With the wet weather this year and the late harvest, wet grain and clogs have been a huge problem this year. It seems like hardly a week has gone by lately where I haven’t seen an article about someone becoming trapped in a grain bin, and way too often these incidents have been fatal.
The DIY solution for clearing a clog from the outside was designed by Guy Mills, a Nebraska farmer. His solution uses a hose, a steel pipe, two elbow joints, and a heavy duty (250cfm) compressor to blow the clogs out/apart a few inches at a time. While most compressors that you would use to say put air in tires or operate drills don’t have that kind of pressure, most rental places have them for less than $50 a day. The compressor really packs a punch though, so if your bin is older use caution so that you don’t accidentally cause damage in the process of removing clogs. Also since this solution uses compressed air at very high pressures/velocities be extremely careful that the components you choose and your assembly methods are able to handle the pressure and follow all safety recommendations for the compressor itself.
Here is the link to the original article which gives more detailed instructions on how to build and use the de-clogger:
Today I’m sharing an article from Farm Progress about a farmer who survived being engulfed in a grain bin. There have been several fatal engulfments already this year, and as the article states around 50% of engulfments are fatal. The main factors that made this case a near miss were that other people were working nearby. No one should enter a grain bin without a second person there who is not in the grain and can get help, but fortunately in this case there were at least other people within earshot. Since the farmer’s leg was low enough in the bin that it was near the auger, it also sounds like the bin wasn’t full enough to completely submerge him. A third factor that helped was that the fire department was able to respond quickly and had a grain rescue system. More and more fire departments are investing in plastic barricades that help more grain from falling in and grain vacuums, plus the training to use them properly. However, there are still many rural fire departments who aren’t ready to respond to an engulfment.
Anyone who is cleaning and refilling bins needs to be especially careful given the late planting and wet conditions so far this year. Wet grain is more likely to form crusts which can either cause a hollow space to form under a surface layer resulting in a fall-through type engulfment or to cause grain to stick to the sides of the bin resulting in an avalanche-style engulfment. Engulfments are preventable. The UMASH grain safety checklist (link provided below) is a good starting point. Developing bin entry procedures that are appropriate to the type of bin being used and following them every single time someone enters the bin is key to preventing engulfment. Keeping kids out of grain bins is also important. A lot of kids are tempted by the idea of climbing and playing in grain so it is important to be sure that they don’t have access to bins or ladders.
Here is the link to the UMASH grain safety checklist:
Today I’m sharing an article from AgWeb explaining how harvest this year might be even more hazardous than usual. A lot of crops were planted late this year. This means that moisture content will be higher, which increases the risk of mold and the risk that grain will stick to the sides of bins and equipment, which could create additional engulfment and equipment hazards. Late planting also means later harvest, which in turn means that more people will be on the road during sunset (which tends to be the most dangerous time to move equipment) and after dark. Pushing harvest later also makes it more likely that farmers will have to deal with frost damage and snow.
While a later harvest can’t be helped, there are things that farmers can do to deal with the extra hazards that come with it. It’s difficult to be patient, especially with winter weather coming, but the more you can wait for grain to be properly dry, the more you can avoid the group of hazards that go with wet grain, plus you’ll save on drying costs. Always follow proper grain bin entry procedures, including wearing a harness, not working in the bin alone, and wearing proper respirtory protection. If your grain is running really far behind, consider other options like making silage rather than trying to force it in if it isn’t going to be ready. Make sure that equipment lighting and slow moving vehicle signs on harvest equipment are good to go now, and consider adding additional lighting or some of the newer slow moving vehicle signs that are more reflective. The conditions this year have been far from ideal, but a little bit of preparation will help deal with some of the hazards that come with a late harvest.
Here is another harvest safety article on fire prevention. I vaguely remember our combine catching fire when I was little. I think we caught it early, and there wasn’t much damage. Someone that lives down the road from us wasn’t so lucky 2 years ago. They made it out in time, but their combine was a total loss and the burnt out shell ended up sitting out in their field for several months before they were able to break it up and have it hauled it away as scrap. Fires can move quickly, causing property damage and putting the operator at risk.
Preventative maintenance is the best way to minimize the risk of fire. Clean out dust and debris before the start of the season and as often as you can during harvest. Also check wiring and bearings for signs of damage at the beginning of the season. Pay especially close attention to the wiring if you see signs that mice have been in your combine while it was parked. I don’t know why mice enjoy chewing on wires so much, but it seems like every few years we find something they’ve chewed up and wreaked.
Having a fire extinguisher handy is also recommended. Since most tractor fires are petroleum based, make sure you get an ABC-type extinguisher. The National Agricultural Safety Database recommends the 5-pound size extinguisher for tractors and combines.Click here to see the NASDB’s recommendations for ag fire extinguishers. Extinguishers cost as little as $30 so it’s not a big expense. Keep an eye on the expiration dates, and make sure that extinguishers are replaced as needed.
If you see signs of smoke, get out of the cab right away. Use caution if you try to put the fire out yourself. Surfaces can become hot very quickly, and if you open on a panel on an area that is on fire, the increased airflow can cause the fire to expand quickly and expand outside of the compartment. When in doubt, call the fire department!
With harvest starting, I thought I’d post a series of articles about combine and grain handling safety. This article by Successful Farming gives some of the basics of gravity wagon safety. Gravity wagons are especially dangerous for kids, because the outside ladders make them easier to access and the sound of the auger can make it more difficult to hear if someone is inside. Kids can be really tempted to play in grain, and it’s important to teach them that it’s not safe and to prevent them from accessing grain storage and handling areas.
The article doesn’t mention on-road hazards, but also make sure that your slow moving vehicle signs are in good shape, especially if you’re hauling wagons after dark. I got behind someone hauling wagons around 8:00 at night a few days ago and their sign wasn’t reflecting at all. I was having a hard time seeing them or judging how fast they were going. The newer signs that are super reflective can be seen from much farther away even in very low light, so that it’s easier for other drivers to see you. It might not seem like it would make a big difference, but it really does if you’re driving after dark.