Auger, sweep, vac and extractor safety

Tractors are dangerous, but so are augers, grain sweeps and grain bag extractors

Auger, sweep, vac and extractor safety

Augers, sweeps, vacs and extractors are all built to move grain from one area to another — generally either into or out of storage such as a grain bin or grain bag. Augers have long been a serious entanglement hazard, and while the newer augers have improved safety features the single most important safety feature of any equipment is the operator.

Seasonal equipment such as augers, sweeps, vacs and extractors need to be put away “ready to use” and checked thoroughly prior to use after being in storage.

Checking should include the following:

  • Check all belts and hydraulic lines;
  • Check all cables, winches and braces;
  • Check motors and batteries;
  • Check safety features like guards and covers;
  • Check wheels or tracks on movers;
  • Ensure the auger is straight and not cracked or damaged;
  • Check fluids and be sure the auger is greased;
  • Replace worn or missing warning stickers;
  • Make sure PTO systems are clean, safe and properly guarded; and,
  • Ensure the tractors are safe and properly maintained.

Follow a similar checklist for sweeps, vacs and extractors. Consult the owner’s manual for additional areas to check for wear, damage or missing parts. Do not use pieces of unsafe equipment.

Review safety procedures with staff members who will be using the equipment. Ensure they are familiar with all operation, including emergency shutdown procedures. Do not assume that your workers will remember their training from the last use. Advise your staff that removing or modifying safety guards is not permitted.

Pay attention to operational safety and personal protective equipment (PPE). The PPE should include hearing protection, gloves, eye protection, appropriate footwear. Clothing should not be loose, torn or vulnerable to entanglement — this includes loose sweat pants, ripped shirts, hoodie strings or torn pockets.

Never place anything like a jacket on a piece of working equipment. It could fall into the auger or vac and become entangled. Never try to extract something from a moving auger, sweep or vac. Have your workers follow safe shut down procedures before attempting to extract anything caught in an auger, sweep, vac or extractor.

The majority of injuries on farms involve equipment. While tractors top that list, augers, sweeps, vacs and extractors are dangerous, even deadly. Especially when farmers are working alone. Do not allow someone to work in a bin alone with an active auger, sweep or vac. Always allow for extra time to perform these tasks safely.

Some conditions are more dangerous than others for moving grain or fertilizer. Heated or lodged materials can suddenly fall. Do not allow anyone to work inside a bin with lodged material. Be aware of potential bin damage or collapse from sudden material falling. Use exterior methods to loosen materials and never attempt to unplug an auger, sweep or vac unless it is safely shut off.

Grain bag extractors need the same level of maintenance and safety training, with extra emphasis on the potential for field hazards and entanglements from items such as grain bag plastic. Never start extracting until the primary operator has visually accounted for all personnel in the field. No one should be between the tractor and the extractor, between the truck and the extractor, under the auger or on top of the bag. Be sure bag is clear of any obstructions and isn’t torn or damaged.

Review safe operations with everyone in the field, including custom operators such as truck drivers.

We all have someone we want to go home to. Can you say you have an accident-free workplace? How many days?

About the author


Shanyn Silinski is a writer, published author, speaker, rancher, farm wife, mom and agvocate. She loves working in agriculture, currently in primary production, and sharing about agriculture on social media. Find her on Twitter @MysticShanyn or on Facebook at Photos by Shanyn.

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