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Confined Spaces in Agriculture Toolbox Talk

Confined Spaces in Agriculture

Many Cornell University farms and remote facilities contain confined spaces that have the potential for serious safety and health hazards for workers. Examples of confined spaces commonly found on farms include silos, grain storage bins, slury tanks, underground manure pits, water tanks and wells. Potential hazards in these spaces include oxygen deficient atmospheres, toxic gases, engulfment hazards and moving parts that can cause serious injury.

The safest approach for preventing accidents in confined spaces is to simply perform all work from outside of the confined space when possible. This can be accomplished by designing the space in such a way or using specialized equipment and work practices which eliminate the need for entry into the space. If entry must be made into the space, safe entry procedures and practices must be strictly adhered to ensure safe entry. Confined spaces must be clearly labeled or the hazards of the space must be communicated to all employees by an equally effective means. All entry into confined spaces must be in accordance with the University Confined Space Program.

Confined Spaces Hazards
Vertical Silos Asphyxiation due to oxygen deficiency and engulfment
Toxic silo gas (Nitrogen Dioxide – NO2)
Hazardous energy sources (augers and moving parts)
Grain Bins Asphyxiation from engulfment hazards due to bridging
Asphyxiation due to oxygen deficiency
Hazardous energy sources (augers and moving parts) and Toxic dusts
Manure Pits & Tanks Asphyxiation due to oxygen deficiency
Hydrogen Sulfide and Ammonia may be produced which are toxic gases that also can displace oxygen
Methane (potentially explosive) and Carbon Dioxide may also displace oxygen
Wells Oxygen deficiency and potentially toxic gases

Confined Space Safe Entry Procedures

If entry into a grain bin, silo or manure pit is unavoidable, the following safe entry procedure must be adhered to at all times:

  1. Ensure all personnel involved with the entry have been trained by EHS in confined space safety.
  2. Completely fill out the confined space entry permit prior to entry.
  3. De-energize and disconnect, lockout and tag, or block off all grain moving equipment.
  4. Adequately ventilate all pits, silos and grain bins with fresh air prior to entry.
  5. Perform all atmospheric testing and only enter the space when acceptable entry conditions exist. EHS has 4 gas confined space meters available for loan.
  6. Walking on or below bridging in a grain bin is prohibited. Walking down grain is also prohibited.
  7. Workers are prohibited from being inside of grain bins and silos when they are being filled.
  8. Workers entering a grain bin or silo must wear a body harness attached to lifeline that prevents the worker from sinking more than waist deep. Manure pit entry also requires the entrant to wear a body harness and be connected to a retrieval device.
  9. An attendant must be stationed outside the space during entry. The attendant must receive training and be able to operate retrieval equipment and summon emergency services.
  10. Communications (visual, verbal or signal line) must be maintained between the entrant and attendant at all times.

Contact EHS at 607-255-8200 if additional assistance is needed with assessing confined space hazards or developing safe entry procedures.

Please return sign-in sheet to Environment, Health & Safety for recordkeeping.