What can go wrong while manually cleaning silos?

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    What can go wrong while manually cleaning silos?

    Silos form an integral part of many processes in farming, mining and other industries. However these bulk storage vessels are prone to developing dead material which may be both wasteful in capacity and misleading in inventory.

    The stored substances attract moisture or get into contact with foreign environmental elements, causing material to bind and adhere to the walls or form lumps. Sometimes as the moist product dries, it hardens and breaks up, producing lumps that may also block the valve outlets.

    In order to ensure continuous production, proper and regular cleaning of silos is necessary. The traditional methods of silo cleaning would then call upon a ‘manual scraping’ process where personnel would have to enter the vessels and manually scrap off any build up using hand held tools. These methods proved to be very dangerous and many have drifted away from them. But for those who still employ them the burning question is what could go wrong?  

    Fall risks

    Silos are typically at elevated positions, manually cleaning them comes with the typical risks associated with working at heights.

    Suffocation hazards

    Silos can contain deadly gases, partly formed by the natural fermentation which may occur within the vessel. In fact silos are classified under confined spaces; proper and strict procedures have to be adhered to during entry, works and exiting of silos. This could be result in different cost implications and longer downtimes.

    Danger of Flowing Material 

    Material generally flows fast during the loading and unloading of silos, coming into contact results in personnel being caught and trapped resulting in serious injuries or suffocation.

    Material Collapse

    Movements from the scrapping exercise could trigger the collapse of large lumps the material build up, this could cause injury or death.


    Manual methods of silo cleaning tend to be very costly as they significant implications in terms of manning levels. Furthermore, the exercise tends to be long hence prolonged downtime.

    In conclusion, the manual methods of silo cleaning expose plant personnel to a lot of risks and hazards; an unacceptable situation for this present day. It is imperative that manufacturers call upon technologically evolved methods that eliminate the need for any human entry into the silos during the cleaning process.

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