In this newsletter, we'll cover topics such as grain storage bin entry safety training, managing the hazards of working outdoors, and a webinar on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Never Enter Untrained: Grain Storage Bin Entry Safety Training

Author: Gallagher National Risk Control

Field to Fork: February 2021

The behavior and weight of grain makes it difficult for a worker engulfed by the grain or overcome by a hazardous atmosphere to get out of the storage bin without assistance. Incidents in grain bins often result in multiple fatalities because untrained coworkers attempt rescue and become victims, as well.

Grain accidents occur every year and they can occur very quickly. According to Purdue University, during 2017-2019 grain entrapments rose by 65%.

2017 23  12
2018 30  15
2019 38 23

Grain storage bin entry exposes workers to suffocation hazards and can occur when workers are engulfed by grain or when bins develop hazardous atmospheres or a lack of oxygen. Engulfment can happen when a worker:

  • Stands on moving/flowing grain, perhaps being transported by an auger. The moving grain may act like quicksand and bury the worker in seconds.
  • Stands on or below a "bridging" condition. Due to moisture or mold, grain may clump together, creating an empty space beneath the grain as it is unloaded. If a worker stands on or below the bridged grain, it can collapse and bury the worker.
  • Stands next to an accumulated pile of grain on the side of the bin. The grain pile can collapse onto the worker unexpectedly or when the worker attempts to dislodge it.

Grain bin entry should be avoided if possible, as grain engulfment and entrapment are one of the most significant risks involved in working in the grain industry. However, there are times when grain bin entry is necessary. When all other options have been exhausted and it is determined that a grain bin must be entered, one should take the necessary precautions in order to avoid grain engulfment or entrapment.

Safety Policies & Procedures For Employees Entering Grain Storage Bins

General Policies & Procedures

  • "Walking down" the grain to make it flow is strictly prohibited.
  • Entry onto or below a bridging condition, or where grain is built up on the side of the bin is strictly prohibited.
  • Test the air within a bin for oxygen content and the presence of hazardous gases before entry. If an unsafe condition exists, provide and continue ventilation until any unsafe atmospheric conditions are eliminated. If unsafe atmospheric conditions or oxygen deficiency cannot be eliminated, workers must wear appropriate respirators. Ensure that pertinent employees are qualified and trained to wear respirators.
  • Issue a Confined Space Permit each time a worker enters a bin. The permit must certify that the above precautions have been implemented and documented before workers enter the bin.
  • When entering a grain bin, wear necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a harness secured to the top of the bin. The use of a fall restraint will prevent from falling into the grain causing injury and/or fatality.
  • Keep flammable chemical sources away from grain bins to prevent potential ignition of sparks, fire, etc. If trained as emergency responder for fire, work with assigned buddy to control/eliminate fire until Fire Department can arrive.
  • Only trained and authorized personnel will have access to the grain storage facilities.

Have a Pre-Entry Plan
When entering a grain bin it is important to have a pre-entry preparation plan in place. Components include:

  • Completing a pre-entry check list.
  • Having thorough communication on the ground before entry.
  • Ensuring all pre-entry items have been addressed.
  • Every team member knows their roles and responsibilities.
  • Proper bin entry permits have been completed.
  • Current conditions of the bin.
  • Proper lock-out tag-out has been completed.
  • Having multiple copies of an emergency action plan that is tailored to the specific facility.
  • Purchasing and correctly installing the necessary equipment for an effective lifeline system is a relatively cheap investment.

Incorporate a Buddy System

  • Never enter a grain structure alone. Always have a buddy/partner/spotter. If something unexpected occurs, they can contact help within seconds. The Buddy should remain outside of the bin and be prepared to respond in the event of an incident or emergency and/or contact 9-1-1.
  • Observation will be the buddy's one and only duty while work is being conducted in the bin.
  • Maintain constant communication informing each other of steps to be executed.
    • Communicate if preparing Lockout Tagout process when turning machinery on/off such as the auger.
    • Maintain a safe distance from moving machinery. Do not wear loose clothing.
    • Use available forms of communication: radios, walkie-talkies, horns, mobile phones, visual, etc.
  • When lifting heavy items use proper safety equipment and/or request assistance (from Buddy) to prevent injury.
  • Consider establishing and implementing a Buddy System Policy with standard operating procedures (SOPs) for corresponding departments to prevent potential accidents and/or fatalities.

Apply Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) Procedures 

LOTO is utilized to ensure energy is at a complete zero energy state while performing actions such as maintenance, clearing a jam or inspections. Apply Lockout/Tagout procedures (LOTO) for all electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic power sources, particularly for grain moving equipment. Grain must not be moved in any manner into or out of the bin while workers are inside the storage bin.

  • Prepare for shutdown – authorized employees must know the type and magnitude of the energy, the hazards involved, and the means to control the energy.
  • Shut down the equipment in an orderly and safe manner.
  • Operate all isolation devices (valves or switches) to de-energize the equipment.
  • Attach all LOTO devices* to the energy isolation devices and, if appropriate, use group LOTO mechanisms.
  • Release all stored energy (electric charge, pressure, charged springs, etc.).
  • Verify that equipment energy isolation has been accomplished.

*An LOTO device is any device such as a lock, blank flange and/or bolted slip blind, to hold an energy-isolating device in a safe position. This prevents the energization of the machinery or equipment.

Here are some specifics on when LOTO must be used. The examples above are the most frequent, but there are many more instances where LOTO must be used.

  • Maintenance to electric motors: In many instances electric motors are being used to power large fans, pumps, blowers, dryers, augers, irrigation systems, heavy machinery and much more. These pieces of equipment will need an electrician to complete preventive maintenance and LOTO will be utilized.
  • Maintenance to sweep augers: Sweep augers have exposed moving parts, such as a portable sweep auger, that have exposed power transmission sources. It is critical that the equipment be LOTO so that workers cannot accidently come into contact with the moving parts during maintenance or inspection.
  • Power Take Off (PTO): A PTO transfers mechanical power from an engine to an attached implement. Safe guards such as a PTO safety shield must be in place. In cases where entanglement or caught-in-between could take place during clearing a jam or maintenance, LOTO must be utilized.
  • Getting into a grain bin: When entering a grain bin to clean, it is essential that LOTO occurs. If you are in the bin and another person starts the auger or other equipment, a flowing entrapment will occur causing a catastrophic result. Ensure that LOTO is done and other procedures are taken before entering a grain bin.

Secure a Lifeline

An effective method for reducing the risk of engulfment or entrapment is utilizing a body harness and a lifeline system. A worker entering a bin from a level at or above stored grain, or when a worker will walk or stand on stored grain, should be equipped with a body harness with a lifeline. The lifeline is to be long enough to prevent a worker from sinking further than waist-deep in grain.

Purchasing and correctly installing the necessary equipment for an effective lifeline system is a relatively cheap investment that has the potential to save lives. Having qualified personnel install the lifeline system is an important step to ensure quality control of your lifeline system.  Equipment needed for a lifeline system:

  • Full body harness
  • Lifeline rope
  • Knot passing pulley (permanently installed)
  • Sidewall anchor (permanently installed)
  • Sling
  • Belay device
  • Carabiners

To prevent grain bin fatalities, follow these safe work practices and refer to OSHA's Inspection of Grain Handling Facilities standard (29 CFR 1910.272). You can also reach out to a member of Gallagher's National Risk Control team for additional information and training.

Gallagher is a proud sponsor of Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety Week which will take place on February 21-27, 2021. Partnership with this program helps to make grain rescue tubes and grain rescue training available to emergency personnel. For additional details on how you can help, click here.

Managing the Hazards of Working Outdoors

Author: Scott Bills

There are many physical hazards to working outdoors in the elements. Food and agriculture employers and employees should learn the potential hazards of working outside in extreme weather conditions. Below, we discuss the dangers and how you can protect yourself from the elements.

The dangers of working in direct sunlight

Sunlight contains UV radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts and skin cancer. Protect yourself by:

  • Wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30
  • Wearing a hat and UV-absorbent sunglasses
  • Avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest

The dangers of working in extreme heat

Protect yourself from the three major heat-related disorders of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke by:

  • Drinking small amounts of water frequently
  • Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing—cotton is good
  • Taking frequent short breaks in cool shade
  • Eating smaller meals before activity
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, medications or large amounts of sugar
  • Working in the shade
  • Not wearing respirators longer than necessary

The dangers of contracting Lyme disease

Lyme Disease is transmitted to people by bacteria from bites of infected deer ticks. Most victims will develop a "bulls-eye" rash and flu-like symptoms such as fever, lymph node swelling, neck stiffness, generalized fatigue, headaches, migrating joint or muscle aches.

For protection:

  • Wear light-colored clothes to see ticks more easily
  • Wear long sleeves; tuck pant legs into socks or boots
  • Wear high boots or closed shoes that cover your feet completely
  • Wear a hat
  • Use tick repellants, but not on your face
  • Shower after work
  • Wash and dry your work clothes at high temperature
  • Examine your body for ticks after work. Remove any attached ticks promptly and carefully with fine-tipped tweezers by gripping the tick. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, or nail polish to remove the tick.

The dangers of contracting mosquito transmitted viruses

Viruses such as West Nile and Zika are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

For protection:

  • Apply Picaridin or insect repellent with DEET to exposed skin
  • Spray clothing with repellents containing DEET or permethrin
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks
  • Be extra vigilant at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active
  • Eliminate sources of standing water to reduce mosquito breeding areas

The dangers of poison ivy-related plants

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac have sap that may be deposited on the skin by direct contact with the plant or with contaminated objects.

For protection:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, tucked into boots.
  • Wear cloth or leather gloves
  • Apply barrier creams to exposed skin
  • Apply rubbing alcohol as it removes the oily resin up to 30 minutes after exposure

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Grain Bin Safety

From small farms to large commercial grain operations, grain bins can be extremely hazardous if the correct precautions are not followed. This webcast will raise awareness of the primary grain bin hazards and identify a number of useful tools and resources to reduce or eliminate the risks to grain bin entrants. 
Join us as we discuss:

  • How to assess when a bin is safe to enter
  • Tools and training to execute a bin entry
  • Rescue procedures, training and regulatory guidance

View Now

Author Information:


Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and consultation services for our clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/ or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance/risk management perspective, and offer broad information about risk mitigation, loss control strategy and potential claim exposures. We have prepared this commentary and other news alerts for general informational purposes only and the material is not intended to be, nor should it be interpreted as, legal or client-specific risk management advice. General insurance descriptions contained herein do not include complete insurance policy definitions, terms and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for coverage interpretation.

Gallagher publications may contain links to non-Gallagher websites that are created and controlled by other organizations. We claim no responsibility for the content of any linked website, or any link contained therein. The inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement by Gallagher, as we have no responsibility for information referenced in material owned and controlled by other parties. Gallagher strongly encourages you to review any separate terms of use and privacy policies governing use of these third party websites and resources.

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