Nationwide News: Grain bin safety starts with proper grain management

High crop yields combined with below-normal temperatures and a wet harvest in 2014 have farmers and other grain handlers working with less-than-ideal corn and soybeans. Experts are projecting the deadliest year for grain engulfments since 2010. In 2010, 59 entrapments were recorded, resulting in 26 deaths ­— the highest number on record.

Agribusiness risk management experts at Nationwide Insurance have learned the only true way to help reduce the risk of grain entrapment is to discourage people from entering bins. That means developing a “zero-entry mentality” with a focus on key areas to help keep you and others out of grain bins and harm’s way. One critical area is grain management.

Grain bin safety starts with maintaining grain quality in storage – learning and practicing better stored-grain quality management and closely monitoring grain condition. Most grain entrapment incidents happen because of poorly flowing grain resulting from some type of grain spoilage issue. Preventing spoilage may help eliminate the leading cause of bin entry.

Nationwide offers these grain management tips:

Clean grain. Prior to placing grain into storage, remove as much chaff, weed seeds, bees wings and broken or immature kernels as possible. Clean grain improves future aeration and helps reduce the potential for mold growth, heating and quality loss.

Dry grain. To help ensure grain quality, dry it before storing in a bin. When drying grain, keep kernel temperature under 110 degrees to preserve germination and under 140 degrees to preserve milling quality. To improve drying efficiency and energy conservation, clean grain prior to drying and avoid drying in below freezing temperatures.

Handle gently. Damaged, cracked or broken kernels are more prone to deterioration. Help minimize cracked and broken kernels by handling grain gently – minimize drop heights, use decelerators and cushion boxes, limit drying air temperature and reduce time in heated grain dryers. Colder temperatures also increase kernel cracking and breakage during grain movement.

Follow recommended moisture content and temperature levels. Grains have a shelf life like any food product. Storage management tables available online provide storage life recommendations for corn and soybeans at varying moistures and temperatures. Avoid storing grain with higher than recommended moisture content. Grain should be stored in aerated structures at the lowest possible moisture level for the storage time desired. The longer you plan to store your grain, the drier the grain should be at the time of initial storage.

Aerate grain. When storing grain, reduce grain temperatures to 50 degrees or less. For optimal winter storage, cool grain to 30 degrees-35 degrees or less and maintain low grain temperatures for as long as possible. Allowable storage time decreases rapidly as grain temperature or moisture content increases. Check with local grain storage experts or your local Extension service for additional recommendations.

Check often. Binned grain should be checked every two weeks during the winter months. Check bins once a week in the fall and when temperatures begin to rise in early spring. Run aeration fans, check for unusual odors and cover aeration-fan inlets when fans are not being used. Be alert for condensation on the inside of the roof. If you identify issues, take immediate action.

Remember your health. Breathing in grain dust and molds can cause respiratory problems. Always use proper personal protective equipment when cleaning out bins or handling dusty or moldy grain. Never enter a bin while equipment is running. If you must go in, follow lock out/tag out and confined-space entry procedures. The life you save may be your own.

The information included in this article and accompanying materials was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources. Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2015 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.