Grain auger safety, maintenance tips [Video]

TDI’s Ray Provencio on the maintenance and electrical safety issues that must be taken into consideration before operating an auger.

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Transcription of Feed & Grain Chat with Ray Provencio, Manager Safety Training and Inspections for the Texas Division of Workers Compensation for Workplace Safety

Schafer: Hi everyone, and welcome to Feed & Grain Chat. I'm your host Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain. This edition of Feed & Grain Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and is your source for the latest news, product and equipment information for the grain handling and feed manufacturing industries.

Today, I'm joined on Zoom by Ray Provencio, manager safety training and inspections for the Texas Division of Workers Compensation for Workplace Safety. He's here today to discuss tips for grain auger safety and maintenance. Hi, Ray, how are you?

Provencio: Good morning, Elise, how are you doing this morning? Thanks for having me today. I really appreciate it.

Schafer: Doing well. Thank you for coming on! Now let's get right into it. Ray, why are grain augers such a common source of injuries at grain elevators and on farms?

Provencio: Well, as you know, Elise, with technology, it's great. They have so many technological advances with the agricultural process from harvesting to planting and the augers, it's a very versatile tool for the ag industry.

But unfortunately, it's also one of the leading causes of injuries to farm workers that use this type of machinery. It's unfortunate that these do happen, but the different types of injuries that can occur from these forms of equipment are loss of limbs, they get entangled into the auger itself, they get pulled in by the flights and they bypass the guard. They get pulled into it. They get cuts or fractures from it. Or electrocutions, where they did not lockout tagout — a grain operation system where they have it built into the system. They didn’t lock it or tag it out to perform maintenance on it, or just a lack of training — they just didn't know better. And they put themselves in a very unsafe position, and unfortunately, they were pulled into the machines.

Schafer: How can these more common auger safety incidences be prevented?

Provencio: You know, that's a great question. There's a lot that can be done to prevent a lot of these injuries from occurring, and one of the processes that a company can use is to establish a safe working zone, to establish an area that is safe, where nobody else who has no business in being there can interrupt the process. They have a safety zone set up around the actual auger itself.

If it's a mobile auger, set up around where the intake is at. Where it’s taking in the grain, have barriers set up, have a crowd control in the place where they process the grain to storage bins, have warning signs up, barriers as well.

Train the workers on the proper use of the equipment. What are the areas you need to avoid? Train them if there is a problem on how to assist the situation — do they need to turn off power? If they do, do they need to lock and tag it out? But just to set up a work safety zone where they’re aware of what’s happening, they have a situational awareness of everything that's happening around them and then as they're operating the machine, make sure it’s operating like it should be, everything sounds good, all the safety guards are in place, nothing is loose.

So, training really is important when you're establishing the safe work zone. Proper training and proper equipment, give them the knowledge. If we expect the workers to be safe out there, then we need to train them, we need to give them the knowledge so they can use it.

Schafer: Absolutely. Now focusing on the pre-use auger inspection, what should operators be looking over to make sure that these are safe conditions?

Provencio: Well, one thing you want to do is first make sure all the warning labels are there, all the warning decals, nothing's missing. All the safeguards are in place. There's nothing damaged, make sure they're functional. You know, replace anything, of course, through proper maintenance, replace any worn-out parts, replace any faded decals, any warnings and all that. Inspect the cables if there are cables there because some of the mobile augers have cables to help lift it up to the height that needs to go to. Now, make sure those are good to go.

If there's a winch system, make sure the winch system is in working, operable service. Cables look fine, fasteners are tight, belts that are on their chains, they're in good condition. Check your oil levels of your gearbox and your drive box. Make sure those are good to go and those are topped off.

Any other safety observations that the company wants you to follow, make sure they're there — safety barriers. Make sure the person who's operating the machine is able to operate it, that they have the proper training of how to do it, that they know what to do in an emergency situation and who to contact if something does happen. But having a checklist of steps of how to inspect the equipment before start-up is a good idea. Because with the checklist, you follow it, you can't miss a spot as you follow it to make sure that it's in good operating condition before you start it.

Schafer: And Ray, if anything in that inspection seems off, what is the operators next step to getting it in operating order?

Provencio: That's another great question. If something seems off and you start the machine and something just doesn't seem right, then stop. Stop the whole operation. Take a look out there, see what's happening. If you're not sure, then contact your supervisor. Keep people away. And if you had to get your maintenance staff out there to come take a look at it, then put the machine out of service, unplug it, lock it, tag it out. And just keep it clear and get the right people on the site to take look at it to make sure and see what is happening. If the machine is to the point where they can't fix it, they need to redline the machine and put it out of service and bring another machine that is ready to go and serviceable.

But yeah, absolutely. If something's not going right — stop, just stop. Re-assess what’s happening, contact your supervisor and get the proper people out there to take a look at it.

Schafer: Can you cover some of the safety considerations for transporting augers after use?

Provencio: A good source of information is when you buy an auger that is portable, look at what the owner manual has for you as far as safe operation, safe towing operations. Make sure that it's securely attached to the tow vehicle. They have safety chains on it in case it does break away from the vehicle, make sure those are in place and keeping the auger level and if you're lowering it at a worksite or even before you put it up, make sure that there's no electrical lines nearby. Because if you’re raising or lowering it and you’re not paying attention, you contact those high power lines then you just have energized that piece of equipment, and if you're touching it, you can receive an electrical shock or become electrocuted with it.

So just make sure that it's clear as you’re traveling and just watch your speed. And when you get there, use your tow vehicle to position it or to pull it out of position and also do whatever the company has set up as far as safe towing operations, make sure that is followed, too.

Schafer: Well, this has been some excellent advice today, Ray. Thank you so much for coming on!

Provencio: Oh, you bet. Thank you for this opportunity to come out and to share this information.

Schafer: That's all for today’s Feed & Grain Chat. If you'd like to see more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel, sign up for the Industry Watch Daily eNewsletter, or go to and search for videos. Thank you again for joining us and we hope to see you next time!

Grain augers can pose serious hazards for grain elevator workers when not used properly. The Texas Department of Insurance's Ray Provencio, Manager Safety Training and Inspections for the Texas Division of Workers Compensation for Workplace Safety, stopped by to discuss tips for grain auger safety and maintenance in grain handling for this Feed & Grain Chat.