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Getting safely to the top of those bins

Grain storage: As farmers buy larger grain bins, companies are coming up with safety solutions

As grain bins become larger, climbing to the top grows riskier. Two companies had solutions on display at Ag in Motion north of Saskatoon this summer.

Safety concerns spurred the creation of Darmani Grain Storage’s Skylift, a small elevator that bolts to the side of a grain bin.

“It’s the whole idea of crawling up a bin with a 50 m.p.h. wind and you’re hanging on,” said Richard Epp, president of Darmani. “A gust comes along, it could blow you off.”

Darmani also sells grain bins, aeration fans, bin sweeps, and other equipment related to grain storage. Epp said Darmani has sold several units of the Skylift since it came on the market, about four years ago. They’re very popular on the 20,000 to 30,000 bushel bins, he said, as those bins are so tall.

“They’re the coming thing,” said Epp. “Alberta’s got legislation now where you’ve got to have some sort of protection going up. And this is starting to make a lot more sense.”

Northern Stands debuted its bin harness safety system at Ag in Motion. The company does a lot of work in the mining and construction industries, and grain bin safety seemed like a good fit, said Dave Perrin, who works in the fall protection division of the company.

“We decided to give it a shot. It seems to be working pretty good,” Perrin said.

Grainews spoke to Perrin the day after the harness system first debuted. Perrin said people were sharing stories about falling from bins, or people they knew who had fallen. There were also companies interested in becoming distributors, he said.

“So we’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to hit the ground running with this and we’re going to save some lives.”

Richard Epp, president of Darmani Grain Storage, demonstrates the company’s Skylift elevator at Ag in Motion in July.
photo: Lisa Guenther

The details

The grain bin harness ties off workers the entire time they’re accessing the tops of grain bins, Perrin said. An anchor system bolts into the ribs on the bin roof. A lifeline (3/8-inch galvanized cable) runs down the ladder. The product also includes a traveling system, consisting of a wire rope grab.

“The worker can don a harness, with a four-foot lanyard, hook onto that traveler, and traverse up and down. They can climb right to the top of the bin, do any type of maintenance, any checks that they need to do,” said Perrin.

Right now the safety harness can only be installed on Westeel and Westor 1805 bins, Perrin said.

“We don’t have the ribs on the smooth-wall bin like we do with these ones so we’re going to have to come up with some sort of shimming method to make sure that that anchor fits the profile of the roof properly to withstand the loads.”

Farmers can use one Skylift for two bins, if the bins are side-by-side. Epp compared installing the Skylift to putting on a ladder. “You just bolt it on.”

The Skylift includes a 110-volt winch, a safety cage, safety cable, and safety grab hook. The safety cable includes a mechanism so that that “if the main winch cable breaks, then the safety cable takes over, and it will stop you right there.”

There is also a ladder, in case a farmer gets stuck at the top, Epp added.

Farmers should check the winch cables and safety cable periodically, but overall there’s very little maintenance involved, Epp said. “It’s all sealed bearings.”

Darmani’s Skylift elevator includes a 110-volt winch, a safety cage, safety cable, and safety grab hook.
photo: Lisa Guenther

The cost

Epp said the Skylift’s cost is about half the price of a spiral staircase. If building a new bin, $2,250 should get a farmer a Skylift, connecting platform, and installation. But Epp said exact cost does depend on height.

“Some people use them on legs and stuff. And they’re going up 60, 80 feet with them. Then it costs a little bit more because you’ve got to have more hardware to mount it.”

Skylifts can be purchased directly from Darmani Grain Storage. For more information, visit www.darmani.ca or call 1-866-665-6677. Darmani is located at Fiske, Sask.

Northern Strands offers two packages for safety harness systems:

  • A primary package, which sells for $599. Includes the anchor, lifeline, traveler, and all the hardware. Also includes a harness and lanyard.
  • A supplementary kit for $299. Doesn’t include the harness, lanyard, and traveler, as they’re not needed for every single bin. Perrin notes that the traveler can be moved from bin to bin.

To purchase a bin safety harness system, go to www.northernstrands.com or call 306-242-7073. Northern Strands is based in Saskatoon, and also has an office in Regina.

Darmani’s Skylift elevator includes a 110-volt winch, a safety cage, safety cable, and safety grab hook.
photo: Lisa Guenther

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.

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