Specialized training focused on grain bin safety, rescues

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
After being “rescued” from being trapped in grain, this volunteer gives the “thumbs up” - he’s okay.

Cenex Harvest States, CHS, employees from Lake Region Grain, Devils Lake, Milton, Langdon and members of the Devils Lake Fire Department took part in a day-long Confined Space Awareness Training Course on Wednesday put on by experts from Safety and Technical Rescue Association, SATRA.

While most of us were scrambling for shade or seeking a cooling breeze in the midst of the warm spell that’s brought 90 degree temperatures and humidity in the 80 and 90 percents, as well, employees from CHS and local firefighters were participating in a training course to raise awareness of the dangers of being trapped in as much as a few feet of free flowing grain.

The grain entrapment simulation put each volunteer in the center of a grain bin filled with corn. As the grain flowed out the bottom of the bin, the volunteer sank rapidly to where he could not climb out on his own, even if the grain was only up to his waist. If he’d continued to sink further his chest would be compacted and breathing would become increasingly difficult, then impossible. Left unaided, he would continue to sink until he “drowned” in the grain, but would most likely suffocate, being unable to expand his chest to breathe.

But these volunteers had harnesses attached to them and carefully trained educators to walk them through the things that could happen and what to do should you find yourself in a similar situation.


Their emphasis is not that it’s a training or rescue course so much as it is meant to teach students awareness of how rapidly a person can become engulfed. Armed with this knowledge the students would be able to better recognize hazards they work in and around on a daily basis. That awareness of those hazards would give them the tools to keep themselves safe.

The eight-hour training started in the classroom with the use of Power Point presentations and videos addressing OSHA regulations relating to confined space and bin entry, confined space and bin entry procedures, training requirements, the need for rescue services when making permit required confined space entry, air monitoring, communications during entries, how grain engulfments could occur, other hazards inside a grain bin, equipment needed for entry and retrieval, fall protection and fall prevention and the difference and harnesses and their use and care.

Afternoon sessions 

The afternoon sessions divided the class into groups that would rotate through the training stations.

1. Grain Entrapment Simulation: This simuation includes a discussion of several different types of cofferdams. Also included is a simulated grain entrapment under controlled conditions and retirieval of the worker using the cofferdams. Every attendee had a chance to experience this simulation.

2. Retrieval of a worker from a below grade confined space (boot pit): This station teaches attendants how to retrieve a worker form the space without entering the space or non-entry retrieval. This station uses the assumption that worker is wearing a harness and lifeline while entering the space.

3. Hands on session of an actual confined space/grain bin entry: This session includes using the proper equipment, completing an entry permit, retrieving an actual worker and the duties of the entrant, attendant and supervisor.

4. Harness inspection, fit and “seat time:” This station includes having an employee inspect their harness. This includes documenting harness inspections annually.

Discussion of how to properly adjust and fit a harness, the chance to get seat time in their harness and if employees are interested there is the opportunity to try on a variety of harnesses. There is also some basic knot tying isntruction and practice which covers using figure eight, figure eight on a bite, butterfly knot and using a prussic.

Much of the information used in this story was provided by CHS in a news release.