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Horizontal Silo Safety

Horizontal silos are a storage system where silage is packed in long piles and can reach heights of 20'-40'. Some have construction-grade materials for sides, some are cut into the earth, and some are simply dumped on the ground or a hard surface without walls. All of them pose safety risks if you’re not careful in creating and removing silage from the piles.

Aaron Yoder is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health at the University of Nebraska. He says tractors used for packing silage should have rollover protective structures, or ROPS. The build and slope of the material matters, too.

"So, using the right equipment on the piles, tractors that do have rollover protection. When we’re using trucks on them and that sort of thing, making sure we’re going straight up and down," says Yoder. "They recommend a 1:3 slope, so for every three foot of run you have one foot of rise as we’re loading them and packing them and packing them in that progression as we come forward."

Undercutting happens when the silage pile is too tall for equipment to load material from the top. As silage is continually removed from the bottom, it creates an overhang that could collapse, burying people and equipment.

"The general recommendation is staying three times the height of the pile away from the face of it which can be a pretty far distance, especially if we have a pretty tall pile. So, not going on foot that close to it, making sure you’re always inside a machine that you could back out of the situation if it did collapse," he says. "And, using the appropriate machinery, something that can reach the top of the pile."