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Grain Handling Safety


Grain handling safety standards are vital to every grain storage facility. The agricultural business is no stranger to operational hazards regarding on-site equipment and processing techniques. Managing grain offers unique challenges that require stringent safety procedures and dependable machinery. From grain engulfment to confined spaces, there are numerous risks to be aware of when starting a grain plant or upgrading an existing one.

You can avoid many of the common grain handling hazards, however, by equipping your facility with durable, corruption-resistant devices. With reliable machines on hand, you’ll reap the benefits of improved workplace security, higher efficiency and better feed. Keep reading to discover typical safety concerns and how to remedy them.

What Are Grain Handling Facilities?

Grain handling facilities store, process and ship raw grain, which includes goods such as wheat, barley, corn and much more. Navigating a grain handling system can be complex due to the various mechanical components and safety hazards involved. A grain handling plant may incorporate several types of facilities within one operation, including rice mills, grain elevators and flour mills.

Depending on the type of facility you run and the kinds of grains you process, you’ll need a diverse range of equipment to handle different jobs. Read on to explore the main components of a grain storage facility and see which ones you’ll need to incorporate when designing or redesigning your own.

7 Components of a Grain Storage Facility

Grain quality makes all the difference between a successful or unsuccessful harvest. And one of the primary elements dictating grain quality — if not the foremost one — is your equipment. Do your valves have tight seals that prevent leakage? Do your slide gates facilitate the open flow of grain? Is each piece of machinery equipped for efficient and safe handling? These things matter when establishing your operations.

Here are some of the main elements you’ll find in the typical grain storage facility.

1. Flow Valves

Flow valves let you dictate how fast your grains move through the system and how much comes out. These are an essential element of bulk material systems, typically situated at each of the discharge points. Our full-flow valves enable you to get the most out of your machinery, maximizing grain flow and increasing your operational efficiency. Tight seals ensure no product is lost or mixed with other grains, which helps you uphold your standards for high-quality products.

2. Cushion Boxes

Cushion boxes do precisely what the name implies — they cushion grain from impact, which preserves grain quality and lowers the potential for product damage. At LCDM, we offer the patented DBAR adjustable cushion box, which can reduce damages by over 50% — or entirely, in some cases. The mechanism’s self-cleaning inner cone also decreases the chances of cross-contamination between different types of grain or feed.

3. Slide Gates

Slide gates control the output of grains at bulk material points within the handling process. You’ll find these devices on hoppers, emergency shut-off spots and conveyor belts within the standard grain facility. High-quality gates optimize grain flow and keep materials moving along without seize-ups or leaks. We provide rack and pinion-style gates, which many growers in the grain industry prefer because of their flexible and simple design.

4. Transitions

Most storage facilities have grain bins with transitions. These components come in numerous configurations, including square to round and square to square. They connect system parts and allow different components to work together smoothly for safe grain handling. Our transitions contain multiple lining types — such as ceramic tile and urethane — which adds to their durability and resistance to wear-and-tear.

5. Flow Retarders

Flow retarders slow grain flow within a system while minimizing the amount of damage grain sustains. Many flow retarders don’t do much in the way of protecting the grains from harm, but our models come with “W” style baffles to prevent loss and protect your bottom line. Adjustable baffles allow for self-cleaning during full-flow movement. If you prefer to prioritize grain quality, you can employ flow restriction during low-flow processes.

6. Spouting

As grains travel the system, they must have channels — or spouts — to flow through. The design you choose depends on your specific operational needs — without the correct spout, everything comes to a standstill. Various types of grain flow processes use different spouts, which is why it’s crucial to pick the right ones. We offer square and round spouting in seam-welded and removable lid varieties, all equally durable and rust-resistant.

7. Grain Spreaders

Obtain optimal airflow between grains by using grain spreaders. These tools evenly deposit your materials throughout the grain bin, which lets the grains air dry more efficiently, avoiding moisture damage. Gravity spreaders also separate the fine and lighter grains from the rest, which eliminates uneven distribution and “core” formation within your bins. When your products are uniform, you’ll spend less time and resources on unloading and drying.

Potential Grain Handling Safety Hazards

Grain handling isn’t without its complications, which is why it’s crucial to have the best equipment on hand to reduce the potential for injury or fatality. In addition to purchasing custom, high-quality devices, it’s essential to know some of the common hazards — and incorporate grain handling safety standards to avoid them. Consider a few of the primary dangers.

Dust Accumulations

Dust accumulations are a significant hazard when it comes to grain bin safety. With such high quantities of organic material around, it’s easy for these goods to release large amounts of dust, which accumulates in the atmosphere. Airborne dust particles can make breathing difficult, along with chemicals or fumes from spoiled grain. Another possible safety hazard in grain handling is the risk of dust explosions, which we cover in more detail below.

OSHA recommends that dust accumulation should reach no more than one-eighth of an inch in areas of “housekeeping.” These include ledges, floors within 35 feet of bucket elevators and areas containing grinding equipment. Dust suppression systems can reduce the number of particles released from grain loading processes.


Explosions can occur when gathered dust comes into contact with heated elements, such as grinding equipment or overheated motors. Because of the dust’s highly flammable nature, this combination makes a deadly mix, often resulting in a severe explosion. These combustion events can occur with both airborne and accumulated dust, which is why workers should avoid doing “hot work” in dust-filled environments. Hot work includes actions such as welding and brazing.

Facility managers must carefully monitor ignition sources to prevent such events from occurring, and they must keep accumulated dust at or below the recommended level. Fireproof elements — like explosion-proof slide gates — can stand up against any combustion incidents that do happen.

Hazardous Atmospheres

Pest prevention is a major concern for people who store and ship grain, which is why many businesses use insecticides to deter these critters. However, these chemicals can pose a health hazard to the employees working with grain bins. Similarly, spoiled grains can release mold spores or gases that are detrimental to respiratory health.

When grain is wet, it ferments and releases carbon dioxide, which lowers the oxygen level inside a bin and causes dizziness or shortness of breath. Grain spreaders can minimize these atmospheric effects by facilitating even drying across the entire bin.

Confined Spaces

Within the grain handling industry, you can think of grain bins as confined spaces. Most operations require specific employees to show a permit before entering any bin, as a part of their grain storage safety procedures. OSHA defines a “permit-required confined space” as any small workplace environment that possesses one or more of a few distinct characteristics:

  • Contains materials that can engulf a worker.
  • Has a hazardous atmosphere, whether periodically or continuously.
  • Possesses a structure with walls that slope inward and floors that taper down.

Traditional safety tips for grain handling discourage workers from walking on top of raw grain without proper gear, as this puts them at risk of engulfment. This safety hazard can quickly become a reality if the grain contains hollow pockets underneath the surface. Because the grain acts almost like quicksand, you could become submerged within eight seconds or less.


Any of the above grain handling hazards can turn into emergencies if the conditions are right. That is why workers and managers must always follow safe working plans, which we will discuss in detail below.

Grain entrapment is the most common emergency and the leading cause of death in grain bins, as it can happen quickly and without prior warning. Structures within the bin, such as augers, can also trap workers and cause loss of limbs or other severe injuries. And although explosions can be quick and unexpected, there are steps you can take to avoid them before they start.

Grain Bin Safety Checklist

Establishing a grain handling safety checklist will keep you calm and prepared in the face of emergencies. Most importantly, it can prevent those incidents from happening in the first place. Here are a few steps you can follow to keep your grain bins safe for everyone in the facility.

1. Perform Preventative Maintenance

Facilities should conduct regular inspections for heat-producing devices like bearings and motors, which can become catalysts for dust explosions. You may employ heat detection strategies to identify potential problem areas and remedy them before they cause an accident. Machine wiring also requires a thorough inspection, and grain storage facilities should possess electrical systems suited for dangerous work.

2. Equip the Bins for Safety

All grain bins should have labels warning of the possibility of flowing grain. Workers should be aware that even vertical stacks of grain can prove dangerous if they topple over. Additional signs should outline best practices and safety tips for grain handling, like following lockout procedures.

Each bin should have a permanent ladder attached for accessibility, in case someone needs a quick escape route or becomes trapped and needs rescuing. Ladders should also have cages and platforms to prevent falling, which is another prominent hazard when working at a storage facility.

3. Follow Lockout-Tag-Out Procedures

Employees should turn off, lock and tag all equipment attached to the grain bin before allowing workers to enter. Doing this avoids entanglement with moving parts or engulfment from moving grain. Safety systems for various storage facilities may differ slightly, but it’s advisable to keep a record of every employee who enters. Include what the reason for entering is and on what date entry occurred. Additionally, be sure to remove all tools or equipment in the bin before unlocking machinery.

4. Test the Air

Before anyone enters a grain bin, they should perform an oxygen level test to ensure dangerous amounts of CO2 aren’t present. The same goes for other toxic air pollutants, like fumigants or mold spores. Even if the air is safe, employees should wear masks to avoid breathing in fine dust.

Ventilation systems are a standard component of many grain bins. These facilitate healthy airflow and release gases that can make the inside atmosphere dangerous. Standard bins contain multiple ventilation fans and roof vents to bring in clean air and cycle out contaminants.

5. Use Personal Protective Equipment

Whenever a worker must enter a grain bin, they must wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid full or partial engulfment. This includes a body harness and lifeline or a boatswain’s chair. Earmuffs and other forms of hearing protection are necessary around machinery like grain dryers, as these can be incredibly loud.

Rescue Procedures

Although you plan for complications, sometimes incidents still happen. That’s why it’s essential to have a rescue strategy in place in case someone becomes trapped. You never know when you may need to perform a grain bin rescue procedure for someone who’s been partially or fully submerged — time is of the essence. Here are a few safety tips in case of an engulfment emergency.

1. Turn off the Auger

Turn off power to the auger and perform the lockout and tag-out procedure. Doing this stops grain flow and prevents the chance of the victim getting caught in the auger. Turn on the aeration fans to push air through the grain if the person is fully submerged.

2. Call Emergency Services

Inform the fire department or your local emergency services crew of the situation. If the individual is seriously injured or distressed, they may need breathing assistance and other life-saving measures once they’re free.

3. Cut Openings or Build a Retaining Wall

If the person is completely submerged, cut V-shaped openings on opposite sides of the grain bin. Cutting holes allows the grain to flow out without the danger of auger entanglement. Be sure to space the openings on either side evenly or else you risk causing the bin to collapse.

If the individual is partially submerged, create a retaining wall around them using sheet metal, plywood or a large tube or drum to prevent more grain from covering them. Remove the grain from the inside of this area by scooping or vacuuming it out. You may also be able to free the person by lowering a rescuer into the bin so they can attach a harness.

4. Give Assistance

Emergency service members can provide additional assistance once the person is free, whether this means transporting them to a nearby hospital or giving emotional support. If the bin’s atmosphere is oxygen-deficient at the time of entrapment, allow the emergency crew to perform the entirety of the rescue mission. They’re professionally equipped to handle such situations.

Design Safe Grain Handling Equipment With LCDM

Grain quality, processing efficiency and safety standards play major roles in determining your bottom line. With the right equipment, you don’t have to spend your valuable time worrying about seize-ups, potential hazards, injuries or damaged products. Designing safe, custom-made grain storage solutions with LCDM can take your operations to the next level, adhering to your workflow and optimizing the way you conduct business.

Choosing from our range of grain storage facility products ensures you receive high-quality, resilient machinery that stands the test of time and protects your stock. Prioritize worker safety and grain quality by developing custom solutions to enhance your grain flow processes. LCDM will work with you to help you meet all of your grain handling safety standards, from the smallest part to the largest.

Want to learn more about creating reliable products for all your storing, shipping and processing needs? Give us a call at 888-963-9145 or contact us today to learn more about our grain handling equipment.

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