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Anyone working around grain bins needs to be aware of the dangers of stored grain, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang warns.
“A lot of wetter-than-normal corn went into storage last fall, and wet corn is more prone to crusting or creating a wall of grain near the grain bin wall,” he says. “This increases the potential for bin unloading problems and getting trapped by the grain.”
People can become trapped in three ways: flowing grain, the collapse of a vertical wall of grain and the collapse of bridged grain.
Bridging occurs when the kernels stick together and form a crust. A cavity will form under the crust when grain is removed from the bin. However, the crust isn’t strong enough to support a person’s weight. Bridging also transfers more of the load to the bin wall, which may lead to bin failure as the bin is unloaded.
Hellevang offers these tips to help keep farmers and elevator personnel safe:
Here is what to do if someone gets trapped:
For more information, check out the NDSU publication “Caught in the Grain.” It’s available online at http://tinyurl.com/caughtingrain.
If the grain flow stops when you’re removing grain from the bin but the grain surface has a funnel shape and shows some evidence that grain has been flowing into the auger, a chunk of crusted grain likely has become lodged over the center sump and is blocking the flow. Grain handlers have had some success in breaking up the chunk with a Roto-Rooter type device. Hellevang recommends following these steps:
If the grain is “frozen” together and does not flow from the bin, warming the grain to just above freezing with a heater and the aeration fan has been somewhat successful. Do not allow the heat from the heater to flow directly onto the fan motor or fan bearings because the fan motor relies on cool air flowing over it to keep it cool, and the heat may damage the bearings.
The warm air will pick up moisture from the corn as it heats the corn, which will condense on cooler corn in the bin and increase the moisture content of the cooler corn. Operate the aeration fan long enough to remove this moisture, and remove the corn soon after warming it.
Bin vents may frost or ice over if fans are operated when the outdoor air temperature is near or below freezing, which may damage the bin roof. Open the fill or access cover during fan operation to serve as a pressure relief valve.
Another potential safety hazard is ice accumulation on fans. This can lead to imbalance and vibration. Fans have disintegrated because of ice buildup. Hellevang recommends producers monitor fans for ice accumulation and remove the ice if it builds up.
Source: North Dakota State University
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