Moist grain poses safety hazards during storage admin November 10, 2023

Moist grain poses safety hazards during storage

NGFA members in the Midwest are reporting high levels of moisture in this year’s corn harvest. This is an important reason for industry members to share and be aware of resources regarding the connection between grain quality and safety in grain handling. 

Entrapment in grain bins and dryer fires are two potential hazards related to high moisture levels. 

The most common cause of entrapment in grain bins is trying to dislodge out-of-condition grain that is hung up or crusted in a bin. 

According to Purdue University, approximately half of grain entrapments lead to engulfment which in turn are almost always fatal. Suffocation from engulfment is the leading cause of death in grain bins.

The best way to avoid entering grain bins in the first place is by maintaining grain quality in storage. Moisture is the most important factor to measure and maintain grain storability. When grain is stored at the wrong moisture level or without proper aeration it is prone to crusting or cliffing. 

Watch NGFA’s Safety and Grain Quality Management video for a succinct outline of the hazards posed by out-of-condition grain as well as proper storage methods and recommendations. 

Dryer Fires
Grain dryers serve an important role in preserving grain quality during storage, thereby reducing potential bin engulfment and entrapment hazards. At the same time, a running grain dryer — operating at above 140°F — poses a potential fire hazard. Effective preventive maintenance programs are important for reducing potential grain dryer fires. 

A common dryer malfunction is plugging the grain flow, which can result in smoldering grain or foreign material in the dryer causing a fire or smoldering grain in the storage bin.

Mechanical failures and the lack of an effective maintenance plan also create the potential for dryer fires. A proper maintenance plan and established fire-prevention measures can limit dryer downtime during harvest and reduce potential injury and/or property loss. Operating dryers at excessive temperatures can increase the risk of fire; therefore, many dryers have automatic shut-offs if temperatures reach a critical level. Other significant contributors to increased dryer fire risks include the lack of timely cleaning and inspection of the manufacturer’s recommended susceptible areas.

Read more tips about preventing dryer fires in this Safety Tips Sheet

NGFA will continue to share safety resources on the connection between grain quality and safety. Find more information at