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August 9, 2021
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Grain Engulfment Forces

Entering grain storage structures, such as bin, silos, and tanks is hazardous. A person can become engulfed in a matter of seconds. A person buried up to their waist in grain requires a force equivalent to their body weight plus 600 pounds to free them. The force required to remove a person buried under grain can exceed 2,000 lbs.

The following illustration demonstrates the downward force of gravity on a person buried in grain at various depths:


If entry into a grain storage structure is required, an effective permit process can help ensure that hazards are identified and that required safety precautions are implemented including use of specialized entry equipment, atmospheric monitoring, ventilation, lockout tagout, and use of a trained observer. Always take the following precautions:

  • Never walk on the surface of the grain to restore grain flow within or out of the structure.
  • Never enter onto or below a bridging condition or where grain is built up on the side of a storage structure.
  • Never enter a bin when grain is being reclaimed.
  • Wear a body harness when entering a grain storage structure from a level at or above the level of the stored grain or when walking or standing on stored grain. The body harness must be connected a lifeline that is positioned and of sufficient length to prevent the worker from sinking further than waist deep in grain.
  • Use an observer, sometimes referred to as an attendant. The observer must be stationed outside of the storage structure and ensure that communications (voice, visual, or signal line) are maintained between the observer and the workers inside the structure.
  • Lockout and tagout equipment that presents a danger to persons inside of the grain storage structure.

For more information on grain bin entry requirements please consult OSHA 29 CFR 1910.272.

Source: Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Port Clinton, OH:, and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple Inc., Olathe, KS;



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Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

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