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Awareness of grain bin safety heightened even more

Farmers might decide to hold onto grain longer than originally planned as markets respond negatively to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Donovan, a deputy regional administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), says he’s concerned about a repeat of 2009 when a wet crop in storage resulted in 56 grain bin entrapments and 26 fatalities.

“I’m worried similar conditions in 2019 (will lead to) more engulfments if we’re not careful in 2020. That’s why it’s important when you have to enter that grain bin, you do it right so you’re protecting everybody that’s working.”

In the last 10 months, he tells Brownfield there was a double fatality in Ohio, a death in Illinois, and multiple grain bin accidents across Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

“You get that increased moisture, grain tends to clump, you get more molding. With corn, it starts to look like honeycomb. This can cause bad conditions. You can have bridging grain, avalanching grain. We worry about that.”

While farms are exempt from OSHA regulations, Donovan says there are some simple steps he hopes farmers take.

He recommends turning off the power to augers and conveyors, and to make sure there’s adequate airflow.  After that, he says a full body harness should be worn and to never enter a bin alone.

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