Julie Baillargeon_1
ArticleVolume Number September 24, 2019
Julie BaillargeonM.Sc, Agr.

Are you really safe when you enter the silo?

Êtes-vous vraiment en sécurité lorsque vous entrez dans le silo d'ensilage?

Please note that most of the references used in this article are available in French only.

As most are just about to fill up the silo with grass or corn silage, this important question needs to be raised. As we know,  the fermentation process of forage produces toxic gases that present significant health risks to workers who are exposed. 

Avoid exposure

In an ideal world, it is recommended to fill up the silo completely in one day, close it within an hour after the last trip and avoid entering for at least a month. However, in real life, it may take a few days to fill up a silo. It is also often necessary to enter the silo to install the unloader.  

Preventive measures are not being applied

In a study conducted with 61 agricultural producers in the Montérégie region (Quebec), 89% of them admitted to entering the forage silo at least once during the high-risk period. In these situations, it is essential to apply the recommended preventive measures to ensure the health and safety of workers operating in enclosed spaces.  Although they agreed on the relevance of the preventive measures to be applied, 82% of the study participants nevertheless admitted to not applying them.  More than half of them had already experienced at least one symptom of silage gas poisoning. Time constraints, procedures that are too complex, expensive equipment, or simply habit ("I've always done it and nothing ever happened to me"), these are all reasons that contribute to a false sense of security.

Dare to ask

Seriously concerned about this issue, the UPA brought together producers, researchers, health professionals, preventionists and agronomists for a discussion in April 2019. How can we prevent further tragedies? This was the fundamental question that guided all the discussions and the suggested solutions. The challenge is not simple, but it all starts with a collective awareness and mobilization of all the actors concerned.

As producers or stakeholders, we all have a role to play in raising awareness on this safety issue with family, clients and colleagues. So next time you see someone climbing into the silo, dare to ask them THE question: Are you REALLY safe?

A few useful references :

The prevention of poisoning in forage silos 

La Direction de santé publique de la Montérégie vous prévient…Agriculteurs, attention aux gaz des silos!

Plan de gestion et prodédure proposés des espaces clos