Don’t work alone in grain storages

GroundCover Live and online, stay up to date with daily grains industry news online, click here to read more

Storage safety at a glance

  • Most hazards in grain storage can be avoided by getting the right systems in place.
  • There are risks in being a sole operator – make sure someone knows where you are at all times.
  • Purchase silos with approved ladders.
  • Use a gas mask when applying chemicals such as phosphine, and only use chemicals in pressure-tested, gas-tight storages.
  • Use effective guards on augers to prevent serious injuries.
  • Develop a work health and safety plan for your business and have a plan of action in the event that an incident occurs. 

Grain storage and handling involve some of the most hazardous activities in the grains industry, but these dangers can be reduced by putting in place the right safety systems

The GRDC, as a key stakeholder in the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP), is urging growers to review their grain-handling and storage systems in a bid to reduce the number of related fatalities and serious injuries on Australian farms.

The GRDC’s representative on the PIHSP, Tom McCue, says best-practice health and safety needs to become part of the culture of primary industries to save lives and reduce the impact on families and communities.

Farmsafe Australia statistics indicate a high number of work-related deaths in agriculture are associated with grain handling and storage, and storage specialist Peter Botta warns that working alone is a key risk factor.

Photo of man kneeling

Grain storage specialist Peter Botta says working alone is a key risk factor in grain handling and storage.

PHOTO: Melissa Branagh

“There are risks in being a sole operator and when you are working in a potentially hazardous environment such as grain storage it’s crucial that someone knows where you are at all times. Have a second person on the site, or at least tell someone where you are going to be,” he says.

Mr Botta also has some important safety reminders for working at heights, with chemicals and with augers.

“The ultimate aim in grain storage is to remove all hazards from the workplace and, where this can’t be done, to find a way to control the risk,” he says.

“Silos that don’t have ladders are likely to lead to risky behaviour. The simple advice is – don’t buy a silo without one.

“You need to be able to access the top of the silo safely to monitor grain and this cannot be done without a safe ladder. Look for a safety cage and platforms every two metres, handrails on top of the silo and a system to keep kids out.”

Mr Botta says it is also crucial that growers use chemicals correctly in order to retain the right to use them and to protect themselves from harm.

“This means using the correct gas mask when applying phosphine and only using it in pressure-tested, gas-tight storages so it doesn’t leak into work spaces,” he says.

“Growers in the eastern states now have limited access to the chemical disinfectant [insecticide] dichlorvos due to the potential for exposure and concerns as to the health effects.

“If the industry wants to retain the right to use important fumigants such as phosphine, it’s vital that growers do the right thing and use this chemical safely and appropriately.”

Mr Botta also reminds growers that augers come with guards for a reason.

“Augers are involved in too many farm incidents,” he says. “Most involve crush injuries or amputation of fingers, hands, arms or feet caused by limbs being caught in unguarded auger flights.

“Effective guarding would prevent these serious injuries and that includes making sure they’re in place prior to turning machinery on, and turning the machinery off before trying to clear blockages.”

WorkCover New South Wales has produced an industry standard for guarding the flight intake that will allow free flow of all grains and all new augers should include this improved guarding system. There is a guide available from Farmsafe Australia on how to retrofit a guard to older augers.

Call the National Grain Storage Information Hotline on 1800 Weevil (1800 933 845) to speak to your local grain storage specialist for advice or to arrange a workshop.

“Also remember to be very aware of powerlines when transporting augers and tipping up trucks. Electrocution can happen even without making contact with lines,” Mr Botta says.

“Finally, develop a work health and safety plan for your business. This will help to ensure staff are adequately trained to safely use equipment and you have a plan of action in the event that an incident occurs, including your emergency phone numbers and having a first-aid kit on hand.”

More information:

Peter Botta,
0417 501 890,;


Stored Grain Information Hub,;

Farm Safe Australia,;

WorkCover NSW,

The PIHSP aims to drive sustainable improvements to work health and safety in agricultural industries. It is funded by the Research and Development Corporations for the grains, meat processing, cotton, fishing and livestock industries, as well as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.


From popcorn to pork feed, organic is growing


More Australian wheats on Japanese menu

GRDC Project Code PAD00001

Region South, North