Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

July 7, 2016

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Farm Safety Week 2016: Silage safety


This week, marks the fourth annual Farm Safety Week 2016, which aims to raise awareness and reduce the number of agricultural accidents in the UK and Ireland.

The Joint initiative involves the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health and Safety Executive, Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and Health and Safety Authority, Ireland.

A total of 36 people were killed in farming and other agriculture-related activities across Britain in 2014-15, including four members of the public. This equated to an incidence rate of 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers – significantly higher than any other industry sector and six times higher than construction.

Whilst in Ireland there were 18 deaths in agriculture in 2015 – down from 30 during the previous year – this equated to 19.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, over twice the incident rate experienced in the UK.

Keith Morrison, the chief executive of HSENI and NI Farm Safety Partnership member said: “These are not just statistics – behind each story is a grieving family, a community in shock, and a farm business which demands attention no matter what has happened.

“This year, Farm Safety Week is focusing on the power of the positive. We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to make farms safer places to work and live.

“On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people. Deaths or injuries occurring on farms happen much more often than they should – these accidents are often preventable through adopting simple safety practices. We need to work together so that farm safety is acknowledged as important and change ensues, and we are encouraging everyone in the industry to become farm safety champions,” he concluded.

During this week many farmers will be focusing on silage safety. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) reminds farmers that working with silage is a potentially dangerous time, particularly as high-powered machinery is being operated at speed.

There are other factors which also increase the chance of an accident occurring. These include, fatigue due to long working hours, poor weather and difficult ground conditions. However, experience has shown there are a number of safety measures around key areas that will help make silage time safer.

The HSENI issues the following advice:


      • No child under the age of 13 should ever be carried in the cab of any machine involved in making silage. Contractors must not allow children to ride in tractor cabs.
      • Children should not be allowed to play around the farmyard or fields when silage is being made.

Machinery safety:

  • All tractors and other equipment need to be properly maintained and in good condition. Breakdowns, due to poor maintenance can lead to delays, adding extra cost and more pressure to an already busy schedule.
  • Only competent drivers should be allowed to operate machinery during the silage season and the carrying of passengers should be avoided.
  • All guards must be in place on all equipment and in particular PTO shafts must be properly guarded.
  • Blockages, which need to be cleared by hand, should only be carried out when the drive has been switched off and sufficient time has been allowed for the machine to stop completely.
  • It is essential to remove keys from tractors during maintenance operations.
  • Approved safety cabs or roll bars must be fitted on all tractors.
  • Take care when driving on the public road and watch out for other road users especially when entering or leaving fields or yards.
  • Keep all lights and indicators in working order.

Silo safety:

  • Silos must never be overfilled as this greatly increases the chance of a tractor or loading shovel overturning when filling or rolling a silo.
  • No-one should go underneath a silage cover once it has been put in place. The fermenting grass uses up the oxygen in the air under the cover very quickly. Anyone going under the cover risks rapid death due to asphyxiation.
  • On open silos, with earth embankments, the sides and ends of the silage should be sloped off at a safe angle (less than 45 degrees). On other silos where machines and their drivers can drop 600mm (2 feet) or more, strong front end barriers and guide rails are required.
  • Silos with walls should never be filled above the top of the wall. If overfilled the guard rail will no longer be effective and will increase the risk of a machine overturning.
  • Excessive filling will overload walls and increase the risk to the operators of machinery.


  • Be particularly careful when working near overhead power lines.
  • If you use a contractor for silage making, inform them of the location of any overhead lines which you feel may impact on large machinery.
  • Remember, self-propelled forage harvesters need a lot of headroom, as do large trailers when tipped in the yard.
  • If in doubt about the height of overhead power lines and suitable clearance distances consult with Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE).

Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen MLA showed her support to the week-long initiative saying: “I fully support Farm Safety Week 2016. This is a good opportunity to highlight the main hazards and risks which continue to impact on the daily lives of our farmers. I trust that this dedicated Farm Safety Week will leave a lasting positive impression on our farming industry, particularly in making farmers think about how a life changing accident also has an impact on those that surround them.”

To find out more about farm safety, visit:





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