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Reduce grain bin-entry risk with economical lockout/tagout procedures

Grain bins can be extremely dangerous, but implementing safe bin-entry procedures like lockout/tagout can help reduce the risk of grain entrapment, grain engulfment and entanglement. Lockout/tagout is a simple, inexpensive method that helps ensure all necessary equipment is de-energized and poses no harm.

Before entering a grain bin, flat storage structure or outside grain pile, perform a thorough hazard assessment to determine which risk factors you can control, such as grain condition, grain height, bin atmosphere, filling methods and auger or drag conveyor use. This information can help you identify which equipment should be de-energized or deprived of energy to prevent unexpected start-ups.

Lockout/tagout is a method of de-energizing equipment in order to control potentially hazardous energy, such as electrical, mechanical, gravitational, chemical, thermal, pneumatic, hydraulic and wind. A system of locks and tags are used to help prevent equipment from becoming energized during hazardous tasks, such as maintenance, repairs, adjustments, housekeeping and removing machine guards.

Lockout/tagout kits can cost anywhere from $100-$1,000 depending on the kit size and equipment involved. A wide array of individual or group kits and individual items are available from retailers, such as Brady, Grainger, Master Lock and Zing. In perspective, the expense of implementing lockout/tagout is minimal compared to the priceless safety value it helps provide. This small investment can mean the difference between life and death.

Lockout/tagout procedures

Evaluate each piece of equipment and determine all energy sources that should be locked out, including any equipment or energy source capable of causing movement of grain or equipment.

Next, follow these five simple steps:

  1. Notify all affected co-workers that equipment will be locked out.
  2. Shut down the equipment using the normal stopping procedure.
  3. Isolate the energy via the switch, valve or other energy isolating device, such as a circuit breaker.
  4. Apply the lock(s). Each person working on the equipment should apply a lock and retain the key.
  5. Verify de-energization by attempting to start the equipment. After testing, return the operating control to the “neutral” or “off” position.

Repeat these steps for each piece of equipment that needs to be de-energized. For example, before entering a grain bin, you may need to lockout an unload auger/drag conveyor, fill auger/drag conveyor, elevator leg and/or distributor.

If you are unable to lockout equipment, you may tagout instead. This involves using a durable tag to provide a safety level similar to lockout. The tag should identify who applied it, warn against the hazards of energizing the equipment and include a legend, such as Do Not Start, Do Not Open, Do Not Close, Do Not Energize or Do Not Operate.

Be sure to document all lockout/tagout steps.

Removing lockout/tagout devices

After tasks are complete, follow these steps when removing lockout/tagout devices:

  1. Inspect the area and remove all rags, tools, etc.
  2. Ensure everyone is accounted for and the equipment is safe to operate.
  3. Alert all effected co-workers that energy will be restored.
  4. Verify that controls are in the “neutral” or “off” position.
  5. Remove lockout/tagout devices and re-energize the equipment. Only the individual(s) who applied the lock(s) should remove them.
  6. Notify all affected co-workers that the equipment is in use or ready to use.

Create a safer workplace

Taking the time to properly implement and follow lockout/tagout procedures before entering grain bins can help reduce the risk of entrapment, engulfment and entanglement. This simple, inexpensive method offers priceless safety benefits to you and your co-workers. To learn more, contact your Nationwide risk management consultant at 1-800-260-1356.

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