Silage safety reminder for farmers

Date published: 26 July 2016

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is reminding farmers to take extra care during the silage season.

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.


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 or the cabs of self-propelled harvesters.

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. 

Great care should be taken if anyone has to go under a silage cover to retrieve a tyre when the silo cover is being put in place. No person should go underneath a silage cover once the cover has been fixed in place. The fermenting grass uses up the oxygen in the air under the cover very quickly and at the same time the level of harmful gases increases rapidly. These gases include carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Anyone going under the cover when the covers have been fixed in place risks 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).

To find out more about farm safety call the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121 or visit the farm safety webpage at the following link:


Notes to editors: 

  1. The Farm Safety Partnership’s ongoing ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ farm safety campaign focuses on the four main causes of death and injury on our farms – slurry, animals, falls and equipment (SAFE).
  2. The Farm Safety Partnership, which comprises the HSENI, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), NFU Mutual (NFUM), the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA), is tasked with assisting Northern Ireland’s farming community to work safely and tackle the problem of work-related fatalities and injuries on farms. 
  3. The Farm Safety Partnership Affiliate is made up of the following organisations – ABP Group; AES UK and Ireland; Asda, Danske Bank; Girlguiding Ulster; Glens of Antrim Potatoes; Lakeland Dairies; Livestock and Meat Commission Northern Ireland; Northern Health and Social Care Trust; Northern Ireland Safety Group; Power NI; Rural Development Council NI; Ulster Bank and the University of Ulster – School of Nursing.  These organisations support the Farm Safety Partnership by working to raise the profile of farm safety in Northern Ireland. 
  4. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy. 
  5. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland.

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