Bunker cleaning and silo cleaning: Professionals or in-house self-organization?

Bunker cleaning and silo cleaning: Professionals or in-house self-organization?

Bunker cleaning / silo cleaning – organize it yourself or hire the professionals?

The cleaning of bunkers and silos are similar processes. Both systems are suitable for storing a wide variety of materials. However, there can be differences between bunkers and silos in terms of the size and shape of the facilities, the stored ingredients and the intended use.

Bunkers are often used for the short-term storage of materials such as gravel, sand, rubble and similar substances. Many of these facilities only fulfill their purpose temporarily and are mobile.

Silos are usually stationary structures on a company’s premises. Silo facilities are used, for example, to store grain, chemicals, oilseeds or other materials that are kept in stock.

What is similar with bunkers and silos?

During the operational service life, soiling and deposits occur inside the system during filling and emptying. Chemical reactions promote the formation of mold or other hazardous substances. Gases can form if the wrong substances enter the bunker or silo in an uncontrolled manner. Contamination of the stored material can lead to quality problems for the plant operator during processing. In the worst case scenario, a material blockage could cause the silo to close, which could lead to the plant coming to a standstill.

Regular cleaning of bunkers and silos is the safest solution for the plant operator to ensure smooth operation. This raises the question: should the cleaning be carried out by the plant operator themselves, or is professional cleaning by a proven expert the better solution?

NT-Service GmbH has been an experienced service provider in the field of bunker and silo cleaning for decades. In this article, we would like to explain the differences in cleaning systems and point out all the risks and dangers that could arise.

Why is bunker and silo cleaning important?

Bunker cleaning or silo cleaning is primarily for the safety and protection of people, the environment and assets. Deposits in silos can lead to hazardous gas emissions and are a potential risk to the health and safety of workers and the environment.

Bunker and silo cleaning is subject to certain legal requirements and regulations to ensure that it is carried out properly and in an environmentally friendly manner. In some countries, there are specific laws and regulations for the cleaning of bunkers and silos that must be complied with.

What types of bunkers and silos are there?

Depending on the type of storage and the nature of the material, there are different structures, sizes and shapes of bunkers and silos:

Grain silos:
Grain silos are commonly used in agriculture and food processing to store supplies. They are often large and cylindrical or rectangular and usually have a narrow opening at the bottom tip to empty the material.

Salt and sand bunkers:
These bunkers are often used on roads and highways to store salt and sand to combat ice and snow. They are usually relatively small and have a wide opening at the top.

Rubble and waste bunkers:
Many of the bunkers are used on construction sites to store rubble and waste. They are usually mobile and can be easily moved to meet the needs of the construction site.

Chemical silos:
These types of containers are often used in industry to store chemicals. They are usually small and are used for the safe storage and handling of hazardous ingredients.

Oil bunkers:
These bunkers are used in shipping and industry to store oil. They are often large and cylindrical or rectangular and in many cases have a narrow opening at the bottom tip to drain the oil.

What processes are used to clean bunkers and silos?

Depending on the type of facility and the materials stored in the bunker or silo, there are tailored cleaning methods:

Dry cleaning:
Dry cleaning involves removing contaminants using compressed air, brooms, brushes or vacuums. This method is best suited for dry stored materials, such as grain in a silo.

Wet cleaning:
Wet cleaning is used for silos filled with wet or sticky materials, such as sugar or molasses. The material is sprayed with water or steam to loosen it before it can be removed with a scraper or brush.

Dry cleaning:
Dry cleaning uses special cleaning agents to loosen contaminants that are difficult to remove. This method cleanly removes greasy deposits or encrusted structures in the silo or bunker.

Oil bunker cleaning:
Use extreme caution when cleaning oil bunkers, as oil and other liquids are highly flammable and there is a risk of explosion. Special protective measures must be taken here, such as switching off electrical devices and machines near the bunker and avoiding sparks.

Explosion technology:
This method is used for very stubborn contamination and requires a great deal of specialist knowledge. An explosive gas is introduced into the silo and then ignited. The explosion causes the deposited material to be released from the walls and can then be easily removed.

All cleaning processes are subject to strict occupational health and safety measures that must be observed in order to protect the health of employees and the environment.

Aspects that are important for bunker and silo cleaning:

When carrying out cleaning operations, safety regulations must be observed to avoid accidents and health hazards for the people involved in the cleaning. Regular education and training sessions provide additional safety.

Locking devices:
Before cleaning begins, the silo or bunker should be locked and secured with locking devices to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the interior.

Limited access:
Only qualified employees with appropriate training and experience should be allowed to enter the silo or bunker for cleaning. It is important that employers ensure that their employees have the necessary qualifications, skills and knowledge to carry out the cleaning safely.

Access procedures:
Accessing a bunker or silo can be difficult and often requires special equipment and procedures. There are several ways to facilitate access to silos or bunkers, such as using aerial work platforms, access holes or safety ladders. Rope access is a special procedure that only well-trained professionals should use.

During cleaning, the silo or bunker should be permanently monitored to ensure that employees work safely and that no dangerous situations arise.

Emergency plan:
Employers must have an emergency plan that is activated in the event of an accident or injury during cleaning in order to be able to react and help quickly and effectively. It is important that employers know their legal obligations with regard to the occupational safety and health protection of their employees and that they comply with them at all times.

Equipment and training:
The employees of the cleaning team need personal protective equipment with all the necessary utensils.

Regular training and education measures are required in order to be prepared for the constantly increasing legal requirements for occupational health and safety measures. Regular proof of all necessary qualifications is required by law.

Safe access to the bunker or silo must be practiced regularly. In addition, training in handling and dealing with cleaning agents, hazardous substances and heavy equipment when cleaning the systems is important.

Overall, the employer has a large number of tasks to fulfill if the bunker or silo cleaning is to be carried out by its own employees.

Does it make sense to organize bunker and silo cleaning on the farm itself?

Economic efficiency is a top priority for the company. Every company tries to be independent and do as much work as possible itself. At first glance, cleaning your own bunker and silo system seems feasible. However, as the article shows, there are enormous risks to overcome and considerable dangers lurking. The legal hurdles for proper cleaning are extremely high. Measures for occupational safety and environmental protection require specialist knowledge at the highest level. If silo or bunker cleaning is carried out improperly, the damage can be enormous. In addition to material losses, damage to people’s health or the environment is irreparable.

You can rely on the specialist knowledge and many years of expertise of NT Service GmbH. Here, highly trained professionals are at work who have all the necessary know-how in the areas of safety, occupational health and safety, environmental protection and work techniques. We take on all the risks associated with cleaning and provide you with a customized and clean solution for cleaning your bunker or silo.

Source reference for this article:
BG RCI: https://www.bgrci.de/
Employer’s Liability Insurance Association for Transport and Traffic: https://www.bg-verkehr.de/
Trade association for silo technology: https://www.fv-silotechnik.de/
Occupational Health and Safety Act: https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/aschg/

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