Grain Bin Entry
Essentially, a grain bin is a large vessel designed to hold corn or beans, not people. It usually has small doors at the top and bottom that are big enough to allow entry. If you are thinking, “That sounds like a confined space,” you are correct.
To provide a few more defining details, the grain bin usually has an auger at the bottom to aid in moving grain, a sloped floor and a whole lot of dust. If you remember that adding a sloped floor, flammable atmosphere or other serious health or safety hazard, such as an auger, makes it a permit-required confined space, you get a gold star.
To recap the definitions, a confined space has three characteristics:
1. Limited means of access and egress
2. A size large enough to enter
3. A structure not designed for continuous occupancy
A permit-required confined space has these three features plus one or more of the following potential dangers: hazardous atmosphere, sloped floor or walls, the possibility for engulfment or any other situation that might create a serious health or safety risk. Grain bins definitely fall into this category and pose some unique challenges.
Combustible Grain Dust
We usually think about a flammable atmosphere with reference to vapors released from a flammable liquid. Dust, in this case grain dust, also can create a flammable, explosive atmosphere. When combustibles are fine enough and dispersed in the air, they can be a serious hazard.
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Engulfment is another danger that can arise when dealing with grain. Moving grain can cause someone to sink quickly. Pressure from the surrounding material then can restrict that person's chest movement and restrict or prevent breathing. Even engulfment of the lower extremities can cause injury or death if not addressed quickly.