I spent most of last weekend hauling wagons to help fill silage bags so I thought I’d share this article from Feed Lot on silage safety. This article is about bunker silos, but many of the tips apply to bags and towers too. In my experience bunkers and bags seem to be safer than towers because you’re removing the risk of falls, some equipment-related risks, and the risk of trying to deal with mold or gasses in an enclosed space, but all types of silos come with their own set of hazards. One major hazard that is unique to bunker silos is the risk of becoming engulfed if the pile falls down. This can happen during loading and unloading. You can minimize the risk by making the pile shorter and by removing silage from the top first.
A father and son were killed yesterday after being engulfed in silage at a farm in Barron, Wisconsin. The announcement didn’t provide much detail on what happened, but it sounds like either a collapse of material stuck to the side of the silo or that there was a shell of material that collapsed underneath.
While silage engulfments are less common than grain engulfments, they can occur under the right conditions. The combination of silage with a higher moisture content and colder weather can sometimes cause partial freezing which can cause the silage to form crusts like a grain bin does. The high narrow structure of a silo also makes it more difficult to install harnesses.
Due to this and more common silo hazards like mold, silo gas, electrocution hazards, and fall hazards, many farmers have been opting to switch to horizontal silos such as silo bags and trench silos. These systems aren’t without issues (finding the right location to put it can be tough and you have to be more careful about moisture accumulating in the bottom) but with a little extra planning they can be a good option both in terms of safety and in terms of reduced maintenance.
I found a harness system by Northern Strands designed for the outside of grain bins. A lot of grain bin safety programs focus on safety inside the bin, but safety outside is important as well. A coworker of one of my classmates in the ag safety program was severely injured because he was electrocuted while repairing part of a bin’s electrical system then fell. A harness like this would have prevented some his worst injuries! The system costs between $300-$400 dollars, which is cheaper than installing a cage around the ladder or switching to a stair system, and in some ways is safer because it’s guaranteed to stop you from falling more than a few feet. I’d imagine that this system would work well for silo ladders too. If you’re interested in learning more, click here to visit their website.