Grain Bin & Silo Safety

Grain handling facilities receive, handle, store, process and ship bulk raw agricultural commodities such as corn, wheat, oats, barley, sunflower seeds, and soybeans. Grain handling facilities include grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills, rice mills, dust pelletizing plants, dry corn mills, and facilities with soybean flaking operation.

A silo is a tall, slender, cylinder-shaped structure. A silo can be a single unit or arranged into interconnected groups of silos. Silos, or silage structures, store silage, which is fodder that is harvested and fed to livestock.

Grain Handling Bin & Silo Facility Safety

Working in grain handling and silo facilities presents a number of safety hazards, including fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation; suffocation from engulfment and entrapment; falls from heights, and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a regulatory standard specifically for grain handling facilities, which employers are required to follow. This page discusses some of the precautions established in that and other relevant regulations, as well as best practices for grain handling bin and silo safety.

Explosion Hazards

Dust explosions in grain storage bins and silos are often severe, causing death  and substantial property damage. Grain dust, the main source of fuel for explosions in grain handling facilities, is highly combustible, and can burn or explode if enough of it becomes airborne or accumulates on a surface and finds an ignition source (such as a hot bearing, overheated motor; misaligned conveyor belt; or from welding, cutting, or brazing). Silos are filled from the top. Dust clouds are often generated during filling and can fill most of the ullage (unfilled) spaces. When filling ceases, the dust clouds typically settle on the stored materials.

Silos are emptied from the bottom, typically through control valves (with gravity as the only force moving material out of the silo). The material is often deposited on moving belts and carried to elevators to raise it to higher levels for processing or movement to trucks, rail cars, barges, or ships. Some silos are elevated themselves, so trucks can drive under them to receive material.

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