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Corn+Soybean Digest

Turn It Off First

You're dog tired and as you climb into the combine — again — you realize that a couple more hours of sleep would have been good, perhaps necessary. Still you tell yourself, “Suck it up, harvest only comes once a year and you can gut it out.”

Sound familiar?

If you think this is another sermon on combine safety, you bet it is.

Farm safety experts say that most corn harvesting accidents occur because operators fail to stop their equipment. That's why they encourage you to follow one simple rule if you must stop your combine to service it: Turn it off first.

Harvesttime is especially dangerous. In fact, the Iowa Department of Public Health reports that 47% of injuries from farm machinery, tractors and falls occur from August through November.

According to the National Ag Safety Database (NASD), most combine injuries occur when clothing, fingers, hands or legs are caught in exposed belts and gears. These accidents usually result in burns and severe cuts.

Also, as with all farm vehicles, carrying extra riders on combines is especially hazardous. Unnecessary riders can fall under machinery, get caught in gears or belts and can distract you.

“Be especially careful to watch for children in the fields,” says Carol Keene, NASD. “The best way to avoid second-party accidents is to keep anyone not involved in the harvest far away from the corn and the harvesting equipment.”

It's basic, but to prevent accidents:

  • Keep all platforms free of tools or other objects.

  • Frequently clean steps and other areas where workers stand to service, mount and dismount or operate the combine.

  • Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles.

  • Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.

  • Be sure your position is stable before you perform maintenance.

  • Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol and age may affect stability.

Even if you follow the rules and pay attention to safety, accidents still happen, of course.

“That's why all family members and full-time workers should receive first aid and CPR training,” urges Dick Nicolai, South Dakota State University Extension farm safety specialist. “Making the right decisions after discovering a farm accident depends on whether you have knowledge in assessing farm accident scenes and first aid.”

Since many accident victims are discovered by family members or farm workers, Nicolai says you must be able to stay calm and act quickly. If you come upon an accident:

  • Get professional help to the scene.

  • Ensure that the victim and you are not in further danger.

  • Provide patient care.

Please try to make this an accident-free harvest. Pay attention to potential hazards, get your combine prepped and ready, and if you must service it: Turn it off first.
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