Think silage avalanche safety

By Hay and Forage Grower

With most hay and corn silage now tucked away for the winter, it’s probably a good time to remind all of those who work around bunker and pile silos that feedout faces are always subject to collapse.

Keith Bolsen, professor emeritus at Kansas State University, and his wife, Ruthie, are leading advocates for silage safety issues, especially those that involve a silage avalanche at the feedout face. They provide these rules for avoiding silage avalanche injuries and fatalities:

· Keep people and machinery away from the feedout face. This includes both at the ground level and on top of the silage pile. A rule of thumb is to not stand closer to the face than three times its height.

· Never work alone when in close proximity to the feedout face.

· Be particularly cautious when removing tires, bags and/or plastic covers that are near the feedout face.

· When removing feed, don’t undercut the face. Shave or remove feed from the top down. Face height should never be higher than the reach of the removal equipment.

· Never sample forage directly from the face; instead, sample from the loader bucket once it is a safe distance from the silage face.

· Remember, even well-packed, well-managed bunkers and piles are subject to avalanche.

Last year, Bolsen and his wife produced a DVD entitled Silage Safety. The 17-minute video was dedicated to Jason Leadingham, a silage haul-back driver who was killed in January 2014 in a silage avalanche. Its content includes testimony of those who participated in recovery efforts and is filled with practical information on how to help prevent silage avalanche fatalities. It makes for a great employee training video. To obtain a free copy, contact Ruthie Bolsen ( or 512-301-2281).