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Image courtesy of OSHA

Image courtesy of OSHA

Every fall, thousands of farms begin the process of harvesting millions of tons of corn, wheat, oats, barley, soybeans and other agricultural products. It’s an annual tradition that has been the backbone of the US agricultural industry since the country began.

But working with grain has its risks and every year agricultural workers are injured or killed in accidents at grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills, dust pelletizing plants, and other grain handling facilities.

Grain Industry Hazards

Hazards include fires and explosion from built-up grain dust, suffocation from workers being engulfed or trapped in grain bins, falls from heights, and crushing injuries from falling or collapsing grain handling equipment.

Already this year, at least six agricultural workers have been injured or killed in grain-related accidents. One of the most recent occurred Sept. 19, when a 28-year-old employee of the Ellsworth Co-Op, in Ellsworth, Kansas, stepped into an open auger well inside a grain bin while the auger was running, according to federal investigators. The worker lost his left leg.

A similar accident occurred Sept. 1, when a 59-year-old man suffered severe leg injuries when his overalls became caught in a sweep auger inside a bin at Trotter Grain, in Litchfield, Nebraska.

Moving Equipment Risks

Augers aren’t the only dangerous equipment in grain handling facilities. Conveyors also are a risk. Workers can easily get fingers, hands, arms or legs caught in moving mechanical equipment, especially if moving parts are not properly covered.

Storage facilities such as silos can also be dangerous. Spoiling grain can cause gasses to form. Or fumigants commonly used for insect control can leak. Either of these can cause workers to be overcome and fall into the grain, where they can become engulfed and suffocate.

Protecting Agricultural Workers

But there are steps agricultural businesses can take to help protect workers.

When workers enter storage bins, they need to make sure that powered equipment such as augers used to move grain is turned off. It’s dangerous to stand on moving grain, which can act like “quicksand”, burying workers in just seconds.

Workers also should walk on grain to help it flow. Walking down grain and similar practices are extremely hazardous.

Employees entering a grain bin should be provided with a lifeline, or a boatswain chair, that harnesses their body so they can be pulled out safely should they become engulfed by grain.

There also should be a spotter standing outside the bin. Two-person teams allow one person to provide assistance to the person going into the grain bin.

Harvest time comes every year. So it’s a good idea to review grain handling safety procedures prior to every harvest so that all workers are kept safe.



Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A few years back, ride-sharing startups like Uber and Lyft changed the way many people got around, especially in big cities. They also decimated the taxi cab industry.

A few years later, the Airbnb startup changed way travelers found accommodations in different cities. It also ate into the market share of local hotels.

Now, a couple of new breakout apps are threatening to do the same thing to package delivery. And companies like UPS and FedEx are undoubtedly paying close attention.

Introducing Roadie and Deliv, two new delivery-sharing apps that hope to disrupt the package delivery industry the way Uber and AirBnB have done to their respective industries.

On the Road with Roadie

Roadie is a smartphone app that connects people looking to have packages and other items delivered to specific locations with drivers who happen to be going to the same place.

The way Roadie works is this: Say you are at the local home improvement store and have just purchased a new furnace for your home. But when you get to your car, you realize that there’s no way the huge box is going to fit into your trunk.

You could pay the store to deliver it to your home for you at an additional cost, possibly as much as $100. Or you could simply go to your smartphone, open the Roadie app and create a “job” and let drivers already online in the area bid on it, typically for much less.

Here’s another scenario: Say your son or daughter is moving away to college on the other side of the country and they want to take several boxes of their belongings with them. If you don’t want to make the cross-country journey yourself, you could use Roadie to find somebody already driving to the city where your child’s college is located and pay them to move the boxes for you.

Costs Less, More Efficient

Generally, the cost of moving items via Roadie, Deliv, and other similar apps is often lower than what you would pay established delivery services.

For example, if you lived in Chicago and found a couch on Craigslist being sold by somebody in Louisville, Kentucky, a traditional carrier probably would charge you $500 to $700 to pick it up at its current location and drop it off at yours, according to Melinda Decker, a Roadie driver based in Louisville. And it could be days or even weeks before you see your new couch.

But a Roadie driver who already was planning on driving to Chicago anyway might charge you much less, possibly as little as $123, Decker told local TV station WDRB-TV. And in some instances, your couch could be delivered the next day.

Roadie, Deliv, and other delivery-sharing apps could soon put a dent in the package delivery industry the way other disruptive technologies have changed the taxi cab, hotel, and other industries.






Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon to the Bahrns blog:

  • In many areas of the US, Autumn means it’s harvest time. We’ll take a look at some of the most effective ways to improve safety in places that work with grains …
  • In the same way that Uber cut into the taxi cab business and Airbnb affected the hotel industry, a new delivery-sharing app could take its toll on package delivery. We’ll show you how it works …

All this and much, much more can be found coming soon on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!


Storage SolutionsPicking and sorting operations have become increasingly important to many businesses in recent years. Thanks to the rise in popularity of online ordering, most businesses today are desperately looking for any way they can get products to customers faster and with fewer mistakes and/or damage.

So finding innovative ways to speed up picking and sorting operations has become something of a mantra to many businesses, from giant retailers like Amazon to small, local businesses simply looking for ways to build their customer base through online ordering.

Here then are five ways your business can instantly reduce the amount of time it takes to fulfill online orders so you can get products to customers faster and more accurately.

Touch Less, Earn More

Take a look at your current fulfillment process. How many times do actual people actually touch products? If it’s more than once, you probably are doing something wrong.

The more touches a product has, the slower it moves through the fulfillment process. Also, the higher the risk of damage of mistakes there will be.

What’s Your Storage Look Like?

How and where you store products is critical to the velocity of their movement through your fulfillment system. When it comes to storage in your warehouse, dock, or business, the first question you should be asking is “Why?”.

Are there any opportunities you could be exploiting, such as random storage — in which items are assigned to any open location — or volume-based storage in which items are ranked by demand and assigned storage locations accordingly.

The 80/20 Rule

Efficiency studies have proven that for most businesses 80% of orders come from 20% of the business’s inventory. Simply moving the most popular items closest to the packing station — or directly on the dock or shipping office itself — can significantly speed up the majority of your fulfillment.

Picking the Right Picking Strategy

By default, most businesses use manual piece picking. After all, it’s the simplest and it makes sense … as long as your volume is low.

But at a certain point, it makes more sense to consider picking strategies that better accommodate higher volumes, such as zone picking, batch picking, wave picking, or even automation.

Walking Is the Worst

Any time workers have to walk anywhere, you are losing money. Not only is it inefficient, but it exposes workers to fatigue, injury, and the risk of being run over by a forklift.

When looking for ways to improve picking and sorting operations, keep walking to an absolute minimum.

Mechanics 101: How Air Compressors Work

17 Oct 2016

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Photo by Peter Southwood (via  Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Peter Southwood (via Wikimedia Commons)

Most shops have an air compressor lying around somewhere. These helpful devices use compressed air to power some of the most common tools in the workshop, including drills, grinders, nail guns, sanders, spray guns, and even staplers.

But how do air compressors actually work? And can they be repaired in-house if they break down, or do you need to pay extra for specially trained technicians to make the repairs?

Air Pressure and Air Volume

There are many different types of air compressors, including one-cylinder, two-cylinder, rotary screw compressors, and more. But they all pretty much work according to the same principle.

Compressing air is essentially a two-stage process in which 1.) Air pressure goes up, and 2.) air volume goes down. Typically, this effect is created by use of a reciprocating piston.

While moving back and forth, the piston essentially creates a vacuum. When the piston retracts, the area in front fills up with air. When the piston extends, this same air is compressed. It also is pushed through the discharge valve, usually into a reinforced air tank that is strong enough to hold pressurized air.

Reciprocating piston air compressors, which are the most common type used today, have five major components: The crankshaft, connecting rod, cylinder, piston head, and valve head.

Powering Up an Air Compressor

In most cases, either a gas engine or an electric motor is used to power an air compressor.

On one end of the cylinder are the inlet and discharge valves. These devices, which are shaped like metal flaps, can be found at opposite sides of the cylinder’s top part. Air is sucked into the cylinder, where the piston compresses it before releasing it through the discharge valve.

The most common type of air compressors used by tradesmen run on positive displacement. This is when air is compressed within compartments, each of which reduces the volume of the air, or the amount of space it takes up. Most have air tanks, although some very small and less powerful air compressors are composed basically of a pump and a motor.

The air tank stores air within specific ranges of pressure until it’s needed to power equipment. As it the pressurized air is released, it can power pneumatic tools connected to its supply lines. Throughout this process, the air compressor’s motor will turn on and off in order to maintain the proper pressure inside the tank.

From air conditioning units to pneumatic tools and more, air compressors are one of the most widely used types of machinery in industry.




Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon on the Bahrns blog:

  • Air compressors are one of those tools found in practically every shop or work site. But how do they actually work? We’ll go inside and take a look …
  • “Speed up picking and sorting ops” has become the mantra of many businesses offering online ordering. We’ll show you five ways you can achieve faster, more accurate sorting starting today …

All this and much, much more can be found coming soon on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!


work benchIf you are considering replacing your existing workbench, it’s probably been a while since you’ve gone shopping for a new one. That’s because workbenches tend to last a long time — in some cases decades — before they need to be replaced.

Workbenches typically are one of the sturdiest pieces of equipment in any shop, dock, or other work environment. So taking the time to find the right workbench for you can pay big dividends for a long time to come.

There are essentially three elements to consider when comparing new workbenches: Storage, construction, and the work surface.

Storage Compartments

The first — and arguably most important — consideration is the amount of storage space and compartments a workbench has. Some workbenches have dozens of tiny drawers while others have no storage.

When shopping for a new workbench, think about how much storage you use right now, as well as how much you think you may need in the future.

Some workbenches come with shelves, enclosed cabinets, a combination of different sized drawers, and other storage options. You can use your workbench to store everything from essential tools to supplies like hardware, equipment, parts, and other items.

Sturdy Construction

When it comes to the construction of your new workbench, the most important consideration is how sturdy it is. Ikea is probably not the place to buy your workbench.

Instead, look for one that is built with materials that will last a long time, including hardwood, steel, heavy-gauge aluminum, and other solid and dependable materials.

You probably will be using the workbench you buy for many years to come. You may even hand it off to your successor. So make sure it’s built as tough as the jobs it will be handling.

Work Surfaces

Today’s workbenches come with a variety of work surface options. There are still traditional work benches with wood tops. But you also can choose workbenches with work surfaces made from a variety of other materials, such as metal, hard plastics, even rubber.

Keep in mind that the surface of your workbench is the area that is going to take the most beating. So you probably want to choose a workbench with a work surface that can stand up to everything you plan to throw at it.

Choosing the right workbench is an important decision because you probably are going to have to live with the consequences of your decision for a long time to come — possibly even the rest of your career.



office chairsMost people who work in offices spend a lot of time sitting behind a desk looking at a computer. While that may sound low-stress, maintaining the same position for hours at a time actually can put a lot of strain on the body, especially the lower back.

Some new technologies, including stand-up desks, can help improve back health and reduce the “white collar spread” many office workers experience. But having the right office seating can also dramatically reduce the risk of becoming injured while sitting down on the job.

Having a comfortable office chair not only can prevent injury and stress but can also help you work longer and more efficiently. Office workers with comfortable seating tend to get more done, make fewer mistakes, and feel more satisfaction in their job.

When shopping for a new office chair, there are six essential things that you should look for in order to maximize comfort and reduce the risk of strain or injury.

Protecting the Posterior

The most weight while sitting down is put on the backside. So choosing an office chair with comfortable seat padding is essential.

Sitting on a hard plastic chair or office seating with thin padding can get uncomfortable after even a short period of time. Instead, look for an office chair with comfortable padding and breathable fabric. If possible, take the chair for a “test sit” before buying.

Arm Rests

Your shoulders will be more relaxed and your arm muscles less stressed when your office chair comes with arm rests.

For maximum comfort, choose an office chair with arm rests that keep your elbows and arms at a 90-degree angle.

Height Adjustment

To work comfortably, your feet should be able to rest flat on the floor. Make sure you choose a chair with an adjustable height option that lets you keep your feet flat and your arms at desk height.

Tiltable Seating

Being able to go up and down isn’t the only concern with an office chair. You also should be able to rock forwards and backward.

This will help reduce slouching and provide more support to both your upper and lower back.

Lumbar Support

Look for office chairs with lumbar support, which means a curved back padding that supports the natural curve of the human back.

If the chair you use doesn’t provide lumbar support, consider adding an optional lumbar cushion that attaches to practically any office chair.


Chairs with wheels not only give you more mobility but also let you swivel, spin and roll around wherever you want to go. Reaching for items on your desk, shelves, or other places on a stationary chair can put additional strain on your back.


Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon to the Bahrns blog:

  • Workbenches are one of those things you probably buy only once or twice in your lifetime. That’s why it’s important to make the right choice. We’ll show you exactly what to look for …
  • Sitting in an office all day may seem like a comfy job. But if you have a poor quality office chair, it can seem like a nightmare. We’ll show you six things to look for when choosing an office chair …

All this and much, much more is coming soon to the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!


cartsAluminum platform trucks are one of the most convenient, efficient, and cost-effective ways to move small loads through your business.

But using aluminum platform trucks improperly can result in tip-over accidents and other disasters that can result in damaged or ruined products and the potential for employee injuries.

Here are five things NOT to do with your aluminum platform truck.

5. Overload It

Every aluminum platform truck is rated for maximum weight. When you exceed that weight, it can put too much pressure on the trucks’ wheels, bed, and other parts, ultimately resulting in parts failure.

Before loading your aluminum platform truck with products, supplies, parts, equipment, machinery, or other items, know the maximum weight that your cart can hold and don’t exceed it.

4. Pull It Up or Down an Incline When Fully Loaded

When you load materials onto an aluminum platform cart, the payload is balanced on the bed of the truck. But when you push or pull the truck up or down a ramp, the center of gravity can shift.

If the center of gravity moves to a point that is not within the four wheels, the payload, the cart, or both will topple over. Don’t push loaded carts up or down ramps unless you are sure they are stable enough not to tip over.

3. Move the Cart Too Quickly

When you are in a hurry, there is a temptation to push the cart faster through your workplace. Unfortunately, most aluminum platform carts don’t come equipped with brakes.

aluminum platform truckSo stopping a fast-moving, fully loaded aluminum platform cart can be challenging. Avoid collisions, damaged goods, injuries, and other potential disasters by always pushing your cart at a reasonable speed … even if you are behind schedule.

2. Ride on the Cart

There’s something about four-wheeled vehicles that naturally attract the curious. People naturally like to jump on moving shopping carts, power jacks, and other rolling vehicles.

But riding on your aluminum platform cart is usually a pretty bad idea. For one thing, it’s nearly impossible to control it when you are riding on its surface. For another, you look foolish and juvenile.

Resist the temptation to ride on your aluminum platform truck or other vehicles not authorized to carry riders or operators.

1. Let It Glide to a Stop

Fully loaded carts can weigh hundreds of pounds. So it’s a bad idea to let go of a moving cart and let it glide to a stop because it can easily roll into walls, stacks of boxes, or even people.

Instead, keep a firm grip on your cart until it comes to a complete stop. And make sure it isn’t parked on an incline before walking away from it.