Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health
By UNMC, Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, Omaha, NE
Feedyard silage-related tragedy doesn’t discriminate: it can happen to employers, owners, or bystanders, resulting in serious injury or death.
Keith Bolsen, Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University, says, “No one should die when they’re working at ag-related tasks. To make that a reality in feedyards, every operation needs a written safety procedure that is part of the facility’s standard operation procedure and is reviewed daily. Remind people every day, because we get busy, distracted and we tend to take shortcuts and risks.”
Common risk factors when feeding silage are:
3. Truck or tractor roll-overs
4. Run-over by machinery or equipment
5. Entanglement in machinery or equipment
6. Fall from a height
7. Burial in a silage avalanche
8. Overcome by silo gas (NO2 and CO2)
Fatigue, whether it’s due to lack of sleep, illness, etc. affects everyone at some time. The practice of taking daily breaks, reviewing safety practices, and enforcing safety practices when working around silage can help fatigued employees maintain awareness of the risk associated with their silage tasks.
Tractor rollovers are quite common around silage bunkers. For that reason, it’s important for silage workers to use tractors fitted with Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) and to always use the tractor seat belt. Other ways to help prevent tractor rollovers include not filling a bunker silo higher than the top of the bunker wall.
In October 2014, when the dump-bed truck Alfonso Miranda was driving tipped over in a silage pit at Great Plains Feedyard in Hereford, TX, he lost his life. In September 2015, 62-year-old Barrie Wyland of Williamsburg, PA, was killed when a tractor he was operating while packing silage in a bunker silo rolled over on top of him.
Truckers working with silage should dump the truck bed only when the truck is on a firm surface and never back the truck onto the forage ramp of a bunker or pile to unload.
Run-over accidents can be reduced when all employees wear high-visibility safety vests at all times. Bystanders, especially children, should never be allowed near moving harvest and transport equipment either in a field or around bunker silos and silage piles during filling or feeding. Rear view mirrors should be adjusted to accommodate each driver and every truck and tractor should be equipped with a back-up warning alarm.
“While they’re waiting to unload, operators should stay in their truck or tractor,” Bolsen says. “People on the ground should never walk in front of or behind any truck or tractor that is stopped without first making eye contact with the operator.”
Visibility for operators of large machines can be increased by using reverse alarm devices or a remote video camera that helps warn people that the equipment will be operated in a reverse direction.
Steps to help reduce risk of falls from silage bunker or piles include installing standard guardrails on all above-ground level bunker silo walls. Use caution in removing plastic or other items from the top of the silage pile.
Never “pitch” or discard surface spoiled silage while standing on top of the silage pile. It’s a dangerous practice at any time, and especially while standing on the top of an over-filled bunker or pile.
Around any silage pile or bunker, there should be zero tolerance for “horseplay” when working on the top of a bunker or pile.
Bolsen notes that the most important daily feedyard goal is to send employees home safe to their families at the end of every day.