As harvest season gets underway and the sense of urgency to harvest crops takes over, farmers can forget to stay safe and think safety first.
According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, farming is the most dangerous job in America. In 2018, there were 574 fatalities or 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Because the fall harvest is one of the busiest times of year for farmers, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week. Since 1944, the National Safety Council has been promoting farm safety during National Farm Safety and Health Week to remind farmers to stay safe.
Following is a list of six tips to stay safe this harvest season:
1. Keep equipment in good condition. Check to ensure that all guards are in place. If you are using older tractors, make sure they are retrofitted with a rollover protection structure (ROPS). Make sure you have the recommended lighting on your tractors and equipment when traveling on roads — especially at dawn and dusk, the two most dangerous times to be on the road. Use an escort vehicle when necessary.
2. Don’t ignore your health during harvest season. As hard as it might be, try to get adequate sleep, which will help you rejuvenate from a hard day and prepare you for the next busy day. When doing fieldwork, take short breaks throughout the day and get out of the tractor to stretch. Stay hydrated and pack nutritious snacks or meals so that you have energy.
3. Shut engine off to check for clogs. Even though you are in a hurry to get done, you must always turn off the tractor, chopper or combine before you get off of it to check or unclog any piece of equipment.
4. Educate helpers about safety. If a neighbor, family member or friend helps during harvest, provide that person with farm safety training related to the task he or she will be helping with. If you have youth (either your own, hired or volunteers) working for you during harvest, evaluate the job they are doing to ensure they are not taking on more responsibility than they are mentally or physically able to accomplish. Check on them frequently to monitor their progress and safety.
5. Stay away from PTO. It is important to understand that the PTO is one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on the farm. Never reach across or step over an operating PTO shaft even if it has a shield. This could result in severe injury or even death. Keep clothing and limbs away from rotating PTO shafts. Even if you are careful to keep your body away from a rotating PTO, if a loose sleeve or shirt tail gets caught, you will be pulled in with it. Always disengage the PTO, turn off the engine and remove the keys before leaving the tractor seat.
6. Don’t forget PPE. Use personal protective equipment such as ear plugs, gloves and safety glasses when appropriate.
Do your part to make this a safe and healthy harvest season. Stay safe out there.