Greater safety precautions needed at silos in South Africa
More needs to be done to regulate and improve safety in and around grain elevators in South Africa. That was according to Bert Oosthuizen, director of Grain Storage Projects Africa, a company offering silo services such as inspections and assessments across Africa.
He was responding to the death of a woman and her nephew after they fell into a maize silo on a farm near Standerton in Mpumalanga on Friday July 1.
Kerneels Rautenbach, 12, reportedly fell into the silo, after which his 33-year-old aunt Jackie Rautenbach tried to pull him out, but she also fell in. Both died instantly.
Oosthuizen said many accidents occur each year in silos across Africa, almost all of which are preventable.
He identified the lack of legislation to regulate silo safety in South Africa as the biggest problem in this regard.
There were no third parties to verify and monitor that silo owners were taking the necessary responsibility for safety in and around silos, he said, adding that in his experience, many silo owners also did not care about the safety of the silos, either out of ignorance. or because they underestimated the dangers”.
Despite this, farmers and silo operators could take simple steps to improve safety and prevent accidents, according to Oosthuizen.
First, entry was to be prohibited for children and unauthorized personnel. “Protecting a silo doesn’t have to be very expensive. Farmers can simply use a locked gate and fences to prevent access to silo ladders and steps.
Second, silo workers and farmers should be well trained in accident prevention. They must have access to the appropriate safety equipment and know how to use the equipment safely.
“It is especially important that workers wear the correct foot gear when climbing on the silos to avoid [them from] slip,” Oosthuizen said.
He added that proper training was important when it came to unloading grain because irregular “unloading” could cause a silo to collapse. “Product bridging on the side” was another hazard that was often overlooked.
Third, silos needed to be inspected and maintained regularly to correct distortions and weaknesses that could negatively affect the integrity of these structures.
“Silo owners should walk around and inside their silos, when empty, to identify weaknesses such as cracks, corrosion, warping, damage and missing nuts and bolts, and repair them. as soon as possible. Augers and other tools should also be inspected and repaired or replaced if necessary.”
He pointed to the 14 silos that collapsed in Swellendam in 2015 as an example of how things could go wrong.
Walking surfaces and ladders also needed to be inspected regularly to ensure they were in good condition and not slippery.
Oosthuizen warned against farmers modifying silos themselves and said experts should be consulted to help resolve serious issues.
Along with this, Oosthuizen said farmers should only use silos for their intended purpose, with produce being regularly recirculated through a silo, especially during long storage periods.
Silos should also not be overfilled and the moisture content of products to be stored should also be checked to ensure the silo is “strong enough to hold”.
Also, people had to stay away from silos during thunderstorms.