Plan a Safe Silage Season in 2021
The weather has been cold of late and that has delayed the silage season but as the season gets into ‘full swing’ attention to safety is critical at silage making. Plan a safe silage season is a key message from John McNamara and Francis Bligh, Teagasc Health & Safety Specialists here
Figure 1 (Main photo above): Silage making involves movement.
During the silage-making season there is considerable movement of both machinery, loads and persons so safety control is needed. Preventing a serious or fatal injury requires careful safety management.
- Safety at silage making requires a lot of organisation and co-operation between contractors and farmers. Discuss all aspects of silage making with contractors in advance including safety. If the work is being done in an unsafe manner have it stopped and discuss the problem with the contractor. Check that necessary insurances are in place for the work undertaken.
- Safety Statement/Risk Assessment. Every workplace has a duty to produce a Safety Statement or safety plan. For workplaces with three or less employees (95% of farms), completion of a Risk Assessment document is accepted as an alternative to preparing a Safety Statement. Farmers should ensure that a Contractor has prepared a Safety Statement/ Risk Assessment and review its content. A farmer should have a Risk Assessment for his or her own farm.
- The majority of fatal injuries now occur when a person gets struck or crushed by a farm vehicle in or around a farmyard. Older farmers and children are particularly at risk. Communicating with these groups about the risk is crucial to heighten awareness.
- Supervise children. Children need to be well supervised at all times during silage making. The farmyard should be a ‘no go area’ for children without supervision. Provide a ‘Safe Play Area’ as an alternative. The H.S.A. are particularly concerned that children under the age of eight years old are not carried as passengers on farm vehicles. A category ‘W’ licence is required to drive a vehicle in a public place.
- Yards must be free of obstructions to allow the free flow of equipment. Well-maintained roadways allow machinery to travel safely. Good visibility is necessary at access points to public roadways. It is acceptable to cut hedges at access points on safety grounds. Warning signs and bollards should be used on road verges, it is not permitted to put them on the metalled road surface.
- Silage Pit Walls. As industrial loaders put enormous pressure on silage pit walls especially when grass is wet. Walls should be checked in advance for soundness and drainage pipes need to used when grass is wet. Sighting rails fitted to walls as these indicate the location of the wall the loader driver. Figure 2: Don’t overfill pits.
- TAMS grant aid. DAFM data indicates that less than 5% of TAMS grant drawdowns are related to silage pits. TAMS ceases in November 2021 so now is an opportune time to consider if you need extra silage storage capacity in the years ahead.
- Blockages and breakdowns lead to high injury risk. Turn off the PTO and stop the engine before attempting to unblock a machine. Fatal injury often happen when working around machinery. Use adequate equipment to prevent accidents when repairing equipment, e.g. use of solid surfaces and axle stands when changing a tyre.
- Silage Effluent. It is vital to collect silage effluent for environmental reasons and this is often diverted into semi- full slurry tanks. Silage effluent increases slurry gas output as it adds nutrients aiding fermentation to the mixture. Also in summer, air and slurry temperature are higher permitting more fermentation to take place. The key safety messages are: always agitate on a windy day, open all doors and outlets, stay well away from the agitation point for 30 minutes or more and NEVER enter a tank as poisoning/suffocation could occur and rescue is hazardous. When done unsafely it has led to multiple fatalities.
- Slurry Access points should be guarded to prevent drowning. Power shafts on both slurry tankers and agitators are highly dangerous if poorly or unguarded. This is because they can be used in a stationary position and a person can get near them when close to shafts revolving at nine revolutions per second or faster.
- Big Bales make up a sizeable proportion of silage made during the summer. Bales falling on bystanders has become a safety issue both when loading and unloading. Bales can be up to 0.5 tonnes in weigh and can kill. Stack on sides in a pyramidal form at the edges. If a contractor stacks them, make sure that you have the gear to take them down safely. Figure 3 (below). Big bales can be hazardous.
- COVID-19 is still a real threat farm families are particularly vulnerable due to the older age status of farmers and their relatively poor health profile. Contractor associations have strongly advised their members on specific precautions related to COVID-19. It is vital for everyone’s sake that all the precautions are closely followed.
Further Farm Health & Safety Information: