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Here’s a 10-step farm safety checklist just in time for spring

antique tractor in parade
PARADE READY: Here’s a proud driver and a proud family in the traditional evening parade at the Indiana State Fair. And why not be proud? That’s a cool tractor, as long as it’s in a parade and not a field.
You’ve never seen a list quite like this one — it’s based on past mistakes!

Bill Field will react one of two ways to this list. Either he will like it because it points out possible hazards to avoid this spring, or he will send me a curt email because I’ve messed up so many times. Field is the Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist.

This checklist is exclusive because it’s based on my own experiences — most of them times when I did something I shouldn’t have done. It’s an expensive list because of the worry, pain, grief and often dollars it cost to learn these lessons the hard way.

Maybe you can benefit from these tips.

1. Never put off to tomorrow routine maintenance you can do today. Not changing oil regularly eventually cost me a new engine. The price tag was over $4,000.

2. If a stepladder looks rickety, it probably is. If wooden ladders are left outside, the rungs rot over time. And when a large man steps on a rotten rung, it will likely break. So far I’ve been lucky; they’ve been close to the ground.

3. If it looks dangerous to wiggle inside an implement to make an adjustment, it probably is. Kinze builds good planters, but they really need a hydraulic self-folding feature on the vertical bar that holds the planter frame on the road. In the field, it’s just the right height that when I emerge from inside the planter after inserting a pin, my head can bang into it.

4. If you’re allergic to dust, you probably shouldn’t empty a grain bin without a respirator. Or in my case, you shouldn’t empty a ton-sized bulk bag of ground corncobs for bedding inside a closed barn. Every time I see a corncob now, I start coughing.

5. Loader buckets are made to carry manure, not people. It’s such a temptation! When I need to get to a high place, why not? What could happen? Plenty, and most of it isn’t good!

6. Trim fruit tree branches before mowing season. You don’t need thousands of acres to get hurt ordo something dumb. I trimmed my branches last spring — just not enough. Late one night I was mowing, got slapped by a limb and drove my lawn tractor into the tree. It has a new hood now, $300 later.

7. Never trust a male animal! A tiger is a tiger is a tiger. And a ram is a ram is a ram. After spending $2,000 and days in agony and therapy, I can finally walk right again. He can’t; he went to the sale barn.

8. Antique tractors without ROPS are meant for parades. Tractor accidents, most of them rollovers, still account for half of all farm fatalities in Indiana. I’m proud of my Massey-Harris, but without a Rollover Protective Structure, it doesn’t do farm work.

9. Never drive a tractor until you understand how to use all the features. That includes knowing how to turn on the flashers. It was two years before I figured out the flasher control was a button. I went down lots of roads with no flashers. Maybe I should have read the operator’s manual first.  

10. Throw away a worn chain instead of using it. A new chain seems pretty cheap if an old, rusty one breaks while pulling a tractor and incurs damage.

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