Thinking ahead for silage safety

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While injury and fatality statistics for silage harvesting and storage are not easily tabulated, few operations present more hazards.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) estimates the Ohio dairy herd to be 267,000 head. With all of those hungry mouths to feed, now is the time for operation managers and custom harvesters to start planning for a safe, efficient corn silage harvest.

Here are some tips to get your crew and equipment ready:

PERSONNEL

Getting ready for the long hours of silage harvest can be just as important as preparing the equipment.

  • Training new employees and communicating with all crew members is crucial to help refocus the harvest team on the tasks that probably haven’t been completed in a year.
  • ¬†Important topics to consider will vary based on the operation, but might include dressing for the job, wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that includes hearing protection and safety glasses around choppers and blowers, and roadway safety when transporting equipment.
  • Keep bystanders (especially children) away from equipment and filling areas.

MACHINERY

  • Operate tractors with a Roll-Over Protective Systems (ROPS), which includes a protective roll bar, or cab AND A SEATBELT.
  • Keep ALL machine guards and shields in place.
  • Ensure there is a solid base when using end or side dump equipment.
  • Any time two or more machines are in the same location (multiple wagons/trucks, pack tractors, etc.), establish a driving procedure to prevent collisions.

HEIGHTS

  • The landscape of dairy farms is changing with fewer upright storage structures and more bunker and bag storage. The hazards will vary based on the systems in place.
  • Use caution when covering a bunker, especially in wet weather. Guarding above walls will reduce the likelihood of injury.
  • Never stand on top of a silage overhang, particularly near the feeding face.

Think safety first! Even the most skilled worker can become frustrated with malfunctioning equipment, poor weather conditions, and other stressful situations. This could lead to a hazardous shortcut, or misjudging a situation and taking a risky action. Communication, preventative maintenance, and proper planning can increase the likelihood of a safe and successful silage harvest.

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(Chris Zoller is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team.)

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