Most dairy farms are owned by a single family. Many producers grew up on the farm and feel comfortable there. It is easy to forget that farms have many dangers present, from large machinery to manure pits. Here are some tips to stay safe on the farm, especially around the silage piles or bunkers.
First, make safety the focus ALL the time. Include safety tips in staff notes. Have presentations each year. Encourage staff to give each other small prizes when safety takes precedence. Have an anonymous way for unsafe behavior to be reported. Teach children to stay away from dangerous areas and never walk around alone. Your family or staff must work together to keep one another safe, and it should be of the utmost importance that everyone end each night healthy and happy.
Next, design a safe environment. Take a walk through your facility with safety in mind. What can you change that will decrease risks? Blind corners can be remedied with convex mirrors. Traffic cones can highlight where to walk or drive safely. You may need to install better lighting inside or out. Can you put reflective markers along driveways or parking areas? How about reflective paint? Are there unsafe structures or old parts sitting out that are potentially unsafe? Perhaps they should be removed entirely. Any machine guards or shields on equipment should be kept in place, as they can save a life.
Now to focus on the silage area specifically. The silage pile is not a place to let your guard down. High visibility vests help keep your team visible to one another and to anyone working machinery nearby. When applying plastic or if someone needs to be on the pile, sneakers help prevent slipping, and also keep boot marks and tears in the plastic to a minimum. And just like professional athletes wear eye black or hats, sunglasses and hats on your team will help them see, even when the sun is in their eyes. Hardhats are not a bad idea either, in case of a tumble.
Avalanching and sudden collapses kill someone every year. Mark off where your team should stay away from- use traffic cones around a pile or bunker to keep people away from a distance 2-3x as far as the feedout face is high. Have signs posted that announce danger near the silage pile, as many are not aware of the pitfalls.
In addition, any spoilage should be removed or feed should be gathered from the ground level, with machinery. Avoid having people on top of the pile whenever possible, and always away from the feedout face. Instruct your team to approach the silage bunker or pile using a buddy system- no one should work it alone. Collapses take only seconds.
When caught up in the day-to-day details of running a dairy farm or feedlot, it can be easy to skip over safety protocols in favor of seemingly more “urgent” matters. The truth is, however, keeping your family and staff safe is the most important thing you can do.