Bacon County Ag Update

Farm Safety Awareness- Confined Spaces


Todays topic is confined spaces. These typically refer to grain bins and manure pits. Here are some take home messages on these hazards:


Grain Bins


In the past 50 years over 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported. Take care and follow the following safety tips:


– Do not enter a grain bin without someone knowing you are going in.

– Use a body harness with lifeline. Have 2 observers outside when you enter

– NEVER enter while unloading bin

– Lock out and tag out the bin controls if you need to work in the bin.

– Always be cautious when working with crusted, spoiled grain. This grain can result in blockages, cavities,

crusting, and grain avalanches. Be prepared for the grain to break free and collapse at any time.

– Never count on a second person outside the bin to hear your shouted instructions. Equipment noise may

block out or garble your calls for action or help.

– When you are breaking up large masses or steep piles of caked grain, use a long pole and work from

manhole above the grain. Use a wooden pole because of the danger of overhead power lines.

– If you are covered by flowing grain, cup your hands over your mouth, and take short breaths. This may keep

you alive until help arrives.

(grain bin information was taken from Corn Production Safety, UGA Bulletin B1333)


Manure pits – Manure gases can be toxic and/or displace oxygen causing suffocation. Here are some facts and safety tips if you work in these confined environments:


 Manure storage hazards include gases that are toxic (hydrogen sulfide), corrosive (ammonia), asphyxiant (carbon dioxide), and explosive (methane). Drowning is also possible.

–  Danger is most severe when manure is being agitated or pumped out, and after emptying if the pit is covered. At other times, gas production is very slight and ventilation from fans or natural air movement usually prevents hazardous buildup of the gases.

– Hydrogen sulfide is the most hazardous manure gas. It is colorless, heavier than air, and can cause death within seconds at high concentrations. Hydrogen sulfide is identified by a rotten egg odor and can be detected at low levels.

– The amount of the gas can be increased a thousandfold during agitation and emptying. Hydrogen sulfide is associated with most of fatalities from manure storage.

– Carbon dioxide is a non-toxic gas, but it replaces oxygen and, therefore, can asphyxiate humans and animals. Because it is colorless and odorless, carbon dioxide is impossible to detect without gas detection equipment.

– Ammonia can cause severe damage to the eyes, throat, and lungs. This gas combines with moisture in the eyes and respiratory tract to form an alkaline base, which results in severe burns.


Here are some safety tips to avoid these chemicals from causing burns, asphyxiation and death.


– No action is more important than keeping people and animals out of buildings and providing strong, constant ventilation during agitation and emptying.

– Ventilation systems for animal quarters should be equipped with alarms to warn of failure, and auxiliary ventilation should be available in case of power failure. Another recommendation is not to fill your storage to capacity.

– Allow one to two feet of air space to accommodate concentrations of gases. Also, always keep the agitator below the liquid surface; use gas traps in pipelines emptying into storages to keep gas from flowing back into buildings; and forbid smoking, open flames, or spark producing operations in the immediate vicinity of the storage area.

– Rescuing a person from a pit is a no win operation. Unfortunately, when someone collapses in a pit, gases are so high that it is literally suicide for anyone else to enter without a self-contained breathing apparatus. The only reasonable action that can be taken is to provide ventilation into the storage and wait for rescue personnel with the proper equipment.

– Warning signs should be placed near open storages and above ground tanks, and a rescue pole and rope should be appropriately located in the area. Remember to warn visitors and guests of the hazards or manure storages because you are legally responsible for their safety while on your property

(Manure safety information was taken from “Dairy worker safety and health: Manure pit safety“, in Progressive Dairyman, Published on 18 June 2013)


To follow more safety tips and information, follow my new Twitter account @agsafetypeanut 


Tomorrow I will send out Animal Handling Safety Tips.





Glen C Rains, PhD, PE

Professor – Department of Entomology Adjunct Professor – College of Engineering

University of Georgia – Tifton Campus

Research website –

Agrability Website –