Silage Season Safety – Pre-Season Preparation

Photo used with permission – Flickr – “thejesse”

It’s impossible to thoroughly cover all critical safety information in a short period of time.  Be sure to always seek out OTHER critical information and resources on harvest season and silage/silo related safety.

Pre-Season Prep

  • Farms can be dangerous and unforgiving places. Late summer and fall are high-risk times.
  • In Wisconsin, we often have very tight time windows to get things harvested and put into storage to make it through the year. It’s that urgency and time pressure that can contribute to distraction and mistakes that lead to injuries or even death.
  • Machinery often plays a major role in serious farm injuries.
  • Shortcuts and mistakes can be deadly – PTO or other power unit entanglements; getting wrapped up in a self-unloading forage wagon; or, rolling a tractor on a bunker or pile often happen. 
Think Like a Pilot – Or, a NASCAR Driver
  • The best way to prevent tragedies is to invest prep time to get equipment ready for the coming season. Adjustments required improve safety often also help maximize the quality and value of your crop.
  • Think of your role in the same way an airplane pilot or race car driver would.  That means you need to establish a comparable pre-flight or NASCAR-style pre-race checklist — a run-through and shakedown to make sure all systems are “go.” Consult your operators’ manuals.
  • Are shields in place – on tractors, choppers, blowers, wagons, augers, your combine, etc?
  • Replace questionable hydraulic hoses. Also carefully check bearings and belts and plan for replacements ahead of time rather than waiting for something to break or “go out” at an inopportune time.  Many  terrible farm injuries happen when a breakdown happens. People get super-stressed and frustrated and then do something they know they should not do…
  • If you’re spending time on the road with farm equipment, SMV emblems, flashers, lighting and reflectors must be fully operational, clearly visible, and compliant with all state and local laws.  Be aware of and comply with various weight, width and other roadway restrictions and laws.
Train, Coach, & Create Expectations with Your Employees
  • Many of our farms have hired workers who help during harvest – As an employer, spend time with workers even if they are family members, temporary, or part-time. Talk about your safety expectations. Operators’ manuals are a great source of information. The same is true if you’re hiring custom harvest work.  You need to create and expect a culture of safety.  ALSO — Create an expectation that you will be open to listening and solving problems if a worker discovers something unsafe while they are working.
  • With everybody involved in the operation, demonstrate and walk through safety procedures and show people exactly what to do if something unexpected happens.  
  • Make sure everyone involved in the operation has a way to communicate at all times. But realize that if it’s a smartphone, steps need to be taken to make sure people are not texting or talking while driving/operating.
  • It’s impossible to cover everything, so it’s critical to learn as much about safety as possible and adapt these and other recommendations to fit YOUR operation.