Fall harvest farm safety
During harvest season, it is important to remember to be safe when operating equipment. Accidents can happen in less than a blink of an eye and can have devastating outcomes. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you go through this harvest season:
- Do not expose children to hazards. Teach them farm safety at a young age.
Children watch everything you do. If you put yourself in a potentially hazardous situation, they will think it is ok, mimic you, and bad things could happen. For example: When I was a kid we would bring heifers in from the back pasture that goes around the manure pit. My dad taught us to stay about 30 feet or more from the edge of the manure pit because of the deadly gases and so we wouldn't fall in. To this day, I cannot bring myself to go any closer unless I absolutely have to fix the fence or something similar, in which case someone else is always nearby. Explain to a child the importance of WHY and HOW they should or should not act around machinery or other farm hazards. If you teach them right when they're young, it will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
- One seat, one rider.
If a piece of equipment only has one seat, the driver's seat, then the driver should be the only one on that piece of machinery. The only exception to this rule is if a tractor or combine has a buddy seat that is meant for an additional rider. Children love to go for rides but be strict and say NO if there is only one seat. Tough love keeps your kids safe.
- Always tell someone where you are going.
If you are going to go disk “the back 40” then let someone know where you will be should something happen or just to check in to make sure you're ok. If you move to a different field, update them on your status. Cell phones and 2-way radios are fabulous communication tools.
- Don't take "shortcuts."
Jumping across a moving PTO or trying to unclog the chopper while it is running are probably not the best ideas if you'd like to keep your limbs. Take the extra few seconds to shut off moving parts or engines.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
Know where children or workers are before moving machinery. Know where field approaches, tile inlets, trees, barns, sheds, vehicles, drainage ditches and buffer strips are located, and make sure your help knows too. Having to replace machinery parts or fix tile inlets are never a cheap or fun task. Also, don't text and drive!
- Eat. Drink. Sleep.
Fatigue can sneak up on you and you could be tempted to doze off behind the wheel. Take a 20-minute nap when you start to feel drowsy. Keep a jug of water with you in the tractor to stay hydrated and wash your hands if needed. Have someone bring you lunch or supper and keep a few healthy snacks (apples, granola bars, etc.) on hand to boost your energy. And get out of the tractor once in a while to get a breath of fresh air.
- Don't wear loose clothing or strings.
Too often you hear about a farmer getting caught in an auger or PTO because their sweatshirt strings got too close or their pant legs got caught in the gears. Take the sweatshirt or jacket off or remove hood strings before working in these conditions. Cut the fringes off pants and repair holes to reduce risk.
- Shut off PTOs and engine before working on moving parts.
- Use your lights and flashers.
Many road drivers don't heed to farm machinery as they should so be proactive and make sure they can see your lights. If you have machinery that has poor or no lights, only move it on roads during daylight hours and have someone follow behind you in a vehicle with their flashers on.
- Wear a dust mask and do not enter grain handling facilities that are being loaded or unloaded.
Every year we hear about farmers getting trapped in grain bins. Grain is not safe to walk across, especially when it is in a bin and 20 feet deep. If you must enter a grain bin, wear a safety harness and have another person or two nearby should the situation go bad. Also, grain gets dusty, so wear face protection. Your lungs and airways will thank you.
Farmers, stay safe out there in the fields and on the roads. Happy Harvest!