You can hope everyone stays safe as field activity and road travel with equipment picks up moving into summer. Or you can plan to stay safe. There is a difference, and it may determine whether it’s an incident-free summer on your farm and in your community.
A summary of farm fatalities in 2019, published by Bill Field, Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist, included historical data indicating that over the past decade, June and September were peak months for farm fatalities. You’re busy tending crops, making hay and combining wheat in early summer and returning to the fields in September.
The report also made it clear that disaster can strike at any time. Six of the 21 documented farm fatalities in 2019 occurred during spring months. Four more occurred during summer, 10 during early and late fall and only one during winter.
Planning for safety
Take a proactive stance to reduce odds for farm accidents:
Recognize stress as a factor. Josie Rudolph, University of Illinois Extension specialist, says one reason many farm injuries occur during spring and fall is because stress and fatigue add to risk factors for injury.
Part of planning is to recognize the signs of mental stress or fatigue in yourself or others, she says. Even faced with multiple challenges, she says, farm operators are unlikely to seek help for mental health issues. There are things you can do to deal with stress. It begins with recognizing you have a problem.
Make sure safety guards are in place. It’s not uncommon to find a PTO shield broken or missing, especially on older equipment. Field says PTO accidents happen instantly and can be deadly. Go through your equipment and make sure PTO shields are in good condition. Also make sure all shields over chains, belts and other moving parts are in place.
Don’t take extra riders on tractors! It’s a common practice, but it can be deadly. As recently as fall 2019 in Indiana, Field notes, a person was killed trying to climb aboard a moving vehicle in the field when he slipped and fell under the tires. It’s just not worth the risk.
Chadsey Matlock of Greenfield, Ind., a senior in Purdue ag communications, documented that her younger brother Loren had a very close call trying to mount a moving tractor when he was younger. Now her family enforces a rule to not allow extra riders. You can find her first-person account on page 27 of the March issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. Loren survived and is currently an Indiana FFA state officer.
Watch out for other drivers on the road. Talk to farmers who move machinery over long distances, especially in hilly terrain, and it won’t be long before they’re recalling a scary near-miss incident involving meeting other drivers on the road. Drive defensively when you’re in a tractor or sprayer and remember that the person in the other vehicle may not live on a farm or understand how big your equipment is, or how slowly you can react.
Sydney Burkhart of Hancock County, also a Purdue ag communications student, noticed that the Hancock County Farm Bureau placed caution signs for drivers along roads during busy seasons. These signs are a good reminder, but it’s critical to stay alert and be aware of where other vehicles are while you’re on the road.