COLUMBIA, Mo. — As harvest time approaches, farm workers should take extra care in and around grain bins, said a University of Missouri safety specialist.

"Suffocation from flowing grain is one of the most common causes of death in and around grain bins," said Karen Funkenbusch "This can occur when a worker enters a bin and attempts to break up the crust that forms on the top due to moisture. If the auger is running, the worker can be pulled under in eight seconds and will suffocate if not quickly rescued."

If you become trapped in a bin with nothing to hold onto, try to stay near the outside wall. Keep walking around the edge of the bin until it is empty or grain stops flowing, she said.

"Flowing grain is like quick sand. If you start to get covered up, cup your hands over your mouth and take short breaths," she said.

Safety design features should be included in bin construction and safe operating procedures should be established, she said. Ropes, safety harnesses and ladders can provide safety measures. Safety stickers can alert workers to danger of flowing grain.

Never work alone when storing grain. Have at least one person with you. Make sure the auger is shut off then lock out its control circuit so no one else, not knowing you are in the bin, can start it.

Don't walk on the surface of the crust grain. There is a slim chance of survival if the crust breaks and you fall into flowing hot grain.

Avoid entering the bin if you store wet grain. Carbon dioxide released during fermentation can slow your breathing and cause drowsiness.

Be sure children are kept away from grain bins or wagons where they can suffocate or be pulled into the auger.

Robert E. Thomas, information specialist, University of Missouri, 573–882–2480 or ThomasR@missouri.edu