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Strategies to prevent falls from grain bins

Strategies to prevent falls from grain bins

It doesn’t take a long fall to cause a serious injury. Serious injuries can occur from a fall from any height. Falls from grain bins happen far too frequently and these falls, at worst, can be fatal.

According to Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting data, between 2003 and 2012 there were 13 fatalities from falls from a ladder or scaffolding and another four fatalities from falls from a silo or grain bin across Canada. Not all falls lead to death. However, non-fatal falls from heights most often result in lost-time injuries — and this can prove costly on the farm. Either way, preventing falls can save lives and money.

Most grain bins have built-in, vertical ladders on the exterior in order to access the top hatch. Many bins also have ladders or stairs on the interior. A fall from any of these ladders can be fatal or lead to life-altering injuries, so it is important to inspect ladders before use and wear appropriate fall protection equipment. It’s essential to not use ladders if they are defective.

When climbing a ladder, remember to do the following:

  • Clean debris from footwear before you start to climb.
  • Clear debris from ladder rungs as you climb.
  • Any bent, cracked, or damaged rungs or rails should be removed from service, tagged out, and repaired or replaced before further use.
  • Avoid climbing ladders in poor weather conditions (rain, snow and high winds).
  • Always maintain three points of contact when climbing (two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand).
  • Never carry anything in your hands up a ladder. Use a rope to hoist items up or wear a tool bag, belt or backpack.

Something to keep in mind is fall protection systems are required when there is a risk of falling more than a predetermined height (usually 10 feet or three metres) or onto/into a hazardous surface or liquid. Check your provincial health and safety legislation for various fall protection requirements.

For a bin, a fall protection system consists of a properly fitted and adjusted harness, shock- absorbing lanyard, lifeline and rope grab attached to a secure anchor point, or properly fitted and adjusted harness and retractable lifeline attached to a secure anchor point. Please note, there are fall protection systems made specifically for grain bins.

It’s a good idea to have a fall rescue plan in place. A person falling while wearing a fall protection system will be suspended in mid-air and most likely will not be able to self-rescue. This fall rescue plan should be part of the farm’s overall emergency response plan.

Fall protection equipment can save lives. It takes a minimal investment of time and money and can help to ensure safe and productive work.

For more information visit casa-acsa.ca/begrainsafe.

About the author

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As a national, non-profit organization, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) promotes farm safety in the agricultural sector.

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