Seven tips to make silage season 2022 safer for everyone

Safety risks can be minimised by good planning and active consultation between farmers and contractors
Seven tips to make silage season 2022 safer for everyone

Only competent drivers should be allowed to drive tractors and operate machinery.

Silage season is a high-risk time on any farm due to the long hours, time pressure and increase in the level of activity of tractors and trailers and silage harvesters on our country roads and farmyards. 

However, the risks can be minimised by good planning and active consultation between farmers and contractors.

Think of who's in the yard

The majority of fatal accidents on farms occur due to people getting struck or crushed by a farm vehicle in or around a farmyard. 

Older farmers and children are particularly at risk, so communicating with these vulnerable groups about the risks is crucial to gain heightened safety awareness. Children need to be well supervised at all times during silage making. 

The farmyard should be a ‘no go area’ for children without supervision during silage making. Provide a ‘safe play area’ as an alternative - and however, tempting it might be, don’t ask contractors to give a child a ‘spin’ on their tractors and machines.

Plan for the risks

Safe silage-making requires a lot of organisation and cooperation between contractors and farmers. Contractors need to be able to produce evidence of having adequate insurance cover and that a Safety Statement has been prepared.

But the responsibility does not fall on them alone. Equally, farmers need to ensure that a Risk Assessment is conducted. 

If the work is considered unsafe by either party, the unsafe action should be stopped and followed by discussion to resolve the matter.  Only competent drivers should be allowed to drive tractors and operate machinery.

Don't forget to grease up!

All tractors, harvesters and trailers etc. should be in full working order with good brakes, working indicators, lights and beacons should also be working properly. 

Adequate mirrors and wipers should also be in place. Tractor cabs should be kept tidy so nothing can get caught under pedals or in levers. Check hitches also.

Remove obstacles

Farmyards need to be free of obstructions to allow the free flow of vehicles and well-maintained roadways to allow machinery to travel safely. 

Good visibility is necessary at all access points to public roadways - warning signs and bollards should be used only on road verges.

Look up!

Examine routes of silage vehicles for overhead cables. Look out in particular for ESB Networks poles that may have sagged and for overhead cables around the farmyard where trailers are tipping and machines are going high on pits.  Notify ESB Networks immediately of any safety issues with the supply network.

Don't forget the clamp

The walls of the silage clamp need to be checked for integrity in advance of silage making. Care also needs to be taken not to overfill silage pits. 

Sighting rails should be fitted to walls as these indicate the location of the wall to the loader driver. 

Repairs

Blockages and breakdowns of machinery lead to high injury risk. Taking time to apply key safety principles when a breakdown occurs is crucial.

For instance, turn off the PTO and stop the engine if a machine has to be unblocked manually.

Use adequate equipment to prevent injury when repairing equipment. e.g. use of axle stands when changing a tyre. When pumping tyres make sure a compressor is properly maintained, fitted with a pressure relief valve and an accurate pressure gauge is available. 

It is crucial that the airline hose between the clip-on chuck and the pressure gauge/control is long enough to allow the operator to stand outside the likely trajectory of any explosion during inflation.

Effluent and slurry 

Slurry spreading usually follows rapidly after silage making.

To prevent deaths due to slurry gas poisoning, ventilate by always picking a windy day, open all doors and outlets and keep all persons away when agitating and handling slurry. 

Take care when working around slurry tank openings to prevent drowning and guard them to the fullest possible extent. Silage effluent is often diverted into slurry tanks to prevent water pollution. 

Effluent increases the level of toxic hydrogen sulphide slurry gas levels produced by slurry due to acidification. Accordingly, the key precautions apply - ventilating by choosing windy conditions and opening all vents along with evacuating all sheds of both stock and people.

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