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Agriculture workbook

5. Grain movement and storage


1. Control the risks

Whenever anyone installs, climbs, enters, fumigates, fills or empties a silo, significant risks may be involved. Hazards can include insufficient oxygen, toxic gas, explosive atmospheres, unguarded machinery, electricity, grain trapping, silos collapsing, and falls from heights. There are also significant risks for unsupervised children.

Check whether identified hazards present a risk of serious injury, and consider ways risks can be minimised.

2. General safety tips

  • Don’t smoke near silos, and avoid causing sparks from metal friction or electric switches as grain dust in silos can be become explosive, particularly if humidity is low.
  • Work outside the silo if possible.
  • Carbon dioxide in a silo can displace oxygen and cause suffocation.
  • High temperatures can cause heat stress for people inside a silo.
  • Wear respiratory equipment when appropriate.
  • When moving grain augers, avoid overhead powerlines.
  • Ensure all moving belts are guarded.
  • Guard intake points for grain augers.

3. Safe fumigation

  • Ventilate fumigated silos before entering.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's recommended safe ventilation period.
  • Open phosphine containers in the open air, not in the shed or silo.
  • Hold the container away from your face, and position yourself upwind.
  • Wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Have someone standing by when fumigating.
  • Place phosphine tablets into the silo from the roof using a tube.
  • Clearly mark all areas under fumigation with ‘DANGER UNDER FUMIGATION’ signs.

4. Safe use of augers

  • Guard auger drive trains (belts, pulleys, drive shafts) and the rotating screw fitting.
  • Locate mobile augers on firm, preferably flat ground, and operate at a shallow angle (less than 45 degrees) to prevent overbalancing.
  • Lower mobile augers when transporting.
  • Never start augers hidden from your view before checking the area is clear of people.

5. Avoid grain suffocation

  • Do not enter a silo unless necessary. Silos are confined spaces. Entry can only be made after strict compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.
  • If you enter a silo, have someone standing by in case of difficulties.
  • Never enter a silo without turning off the auger and ensuring no-one can start filling or emptying the silo while you are inside.
  • Stay on the ladder above the level of compacted or bridged grain while dislodging it.
  • Ensure external ladders start at a height inaccessible to children.

6. Avoid structural failures

  • Every stored material has different structural characteristics – a silo designed to store one product may not be suitable for another. Care must be exercised whenever a new product is stored in a silo. Check with the manufacturer/supplier.
  • Grain adhering to the inside walls of the silo may cause the silo to collapse.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions exactly in preparing the concrete pad.
  • Use a ‘bedding-in’ procedure when filling a silo, by drawing off a rubbish bin full of grain.
  • Keep people, especially children, well clear when filling or emptying a silo.
  • Consult an engineer before any alterations are made to a silo. Seemingly simple changes can drastically alter a silo’s structural stability.
  • Conduct regular inspections of silos.
  • Equipment attached to silos can impose dangerous loads.

7. Avoid falls

  • Install an approved fall restraint system and harness when climbing external ladders on silos or accessing top hatch.
  • Provide a permanently hinged wire mesh guard on all external openings above the maximum level of grain.

8. Emergency procedures

  • If trapped by grain don't panic – the grain will pack tighter.
  • Shield your face and chest with arms and clothing to create space for breathing.
  • Plan your escape. Always have a person watch from the outside. The watcher should have clear instructions on what to do in an emergency. The first instruction is: ‘Don't follow me in.’
  • If only one person is on standby and cannot pull you out without entering, they must call for help. Only then can someone enter, wearing a breathing apparatus and a life-line. One or more people outside can help to pull you out.
  • If someone else is trapped in a grain silo, empty the bin by opening any side outlet, then cut flaps in the cone or walls all around the base using power tools.

9. Further information

Related information