With COVID-19 on the minds of everyone this year, it might be tempting to be complacent when it comes to safety from physical injuries in the field. It is important for us all to stay safe from the coronavirus, but we can’t forget that some of the considerable safety threats for farmers come from operating machines, working around grain bins and grain transport, and even handling livestock.
I can vividly recall one late night a few years ago when I was combining corn in a field with power lines and poles running diagonally across the rows. On this cloudy, dark night, without moonlight or stars to light the path, I knew the poles and their locations like the back of my hand. I had farmed this particular field for many years, first as a youth, having to dodge the big poles from the disk or cultivator. Then, farming this field on my own, I worked around the poles with the planter and the combine.
However, watching the bin of the combine fill up and trying to lower the header slightly to catch a few low set ears of corn, I forgot for a moment about the poles. As I drove up the rows, I suddenly realized that I had come upon one. There was no time to stop the machine. I looked to my left and saw one of the poles pass within inches of the combine header.
Along with hundreds of other close calls in the field, this incident helped bring the safety message home to me in ways that no amount of literature or printed warnings could do. As farmers, we need to be alert. Danger is truly waiting around every corner, in several operations that we work at every day.
Don’t let guard down
Probably the biggest danger among those is complacency. We let our guard down, like I did that night in the combine, and that’s when bad things happen. We become distracted by things that are away from the operation at hand, and accidents can happen in a split second that change our lives forever.
All farmers have had their fair share of close calls. It is part of the occupation. That’s why farming and ranching are consistently rated among the most dangerous of occupations. But this is also the reason we should use those close calls to remind us of how dangerous specific tasks can be and how diligent we must remain to be alert and safe on the farm.
COVID-19 has forced new risks on everyone, including farmers and their families and employees. But we also must continue to be safe when working livestock, conducting field operations or working around the homeplace.