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Tips for preventing catastrophic grain bin falls on your farm

Post written by Carrie Busic

shutterstock_163964465Because harvest season is a busy time for agricultural workers who are usually working longer hours with heavier workloads, it is an ideal time to remind your staff about the risks of common farm accidents such as bin-related falls.

An accidental fall from a high grain bin can lead to serious injury, long and expensive medical treatment and an interruption in productivity at the most critical time of the year. Unfortunately, we see many claims from this type of activity at this time when farm workers are more fatigued and distracted.

Here are few precautions you can take to make your property safer for staff and help them avoid bin-related falls.

For agricultural workers:

  • Stay hands free. This FARMTALK newspaper article discusses how farmer Brian Flatt was seriously injured in a fall from a bin when climbing the ladder while carrying tools. His 20 to 25 foot fall will require at least two surgeries and 12 weeks of recovery time. Always store tools in a tool belt, carry a backpack or attach what you need to your body. That way, you can keep your hands free and unencumbered for climbing.
  • Wear a waist belt or harness. Bins can be 60 feet high or taller. If you were washing windows outside of a six-story office building, you’d wear a harness or rope yourself off. There’s no reason farm workers shouldn’t take similar precautions when climbing a high grain bin that exposes them to the possibility of a dangerous or deadly fall. In addition, climbing a ladder that’s not attached to a bin, especially when it’s positioned on soft or shaky ground, is a risky proposition.
  • Watch out for icy rungs. Never climb ladder rungs that could be icy. Other cold-weather climbing risks include clunky boots that keep your feet from making clean contact with rungs and gloves or bulky coats that impede movement. Encourage people to take similar precautions when working on high forklifts or heavy equipment buckets.

For farm owners:

  • Consider structural alterations. If your grain bin doesn’t come with a ladder cage or steps rather than ladder rungs, consider investing in these important structural changes. Remember, the cost of medical and legal bills resulting from an accident could be much higher.
  • Insist on common-sense precautions. People aren’t always as sure-footed as they think they are. Post signs and make sure workers are trained in safety techniques, and alert them if they violate important rules.

Let’s make it a safe harvest season and beyond for all.

Do you have any safety tips to pass along? If so, post them in the Comments section below.

For more information about the risks associated with grain bin falls and how to protect your farm against them, contact your local independent insurance agent. For a list of independent agents in your area, click here.

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