As the harvest season is well under way, it is a good time for a safety reminder. Whether the reminder comes from a co-worker, spouse, parent or child, it is important to make the effort to work safely. The few minutes you might save now by taking an unsafe shortcut, may end up costing you more time, money or even your life later.
The most dangerous months on Ohio farms are April through October. A majority of the serious injuries and fatalities occur during these months when farmers are heavily engaged in various types of field work involving the use of tractors.
Fifty-seven percent of all Ohio agriculture-related fatalities involve the use of tractors and equipment. In 2009, there were 14 farm fatalities in Ohio, which was a decrease from 17 fatalities in 2008 and 2007. This is the largest decreased recorded in the statistics to date. Maybe the safety training is working!
According to the National Safety Council, farming is still the most hazardous industry in the nation. The question now is, what can farmers do to continue to increase safety within their operation, in order to decrease the number of farm accidents even more?
Here are just a few safety reminders to help decrease the occurrence of accidents:
Always use seat belts when operating tractors.
Establish and maintain good housekeeping practices in the barn, the tool shop and the tractors.
Maintain and use the proper personal protective equipment every time.
Utilize safety equipment, such as bypass starter covers, power take-off master shields and slow-moving vehicle emblems. Check SMV signs to see if any need to be replaced or cleaned. A faded or muddy SMV is not visible.
Inspect equipment routinely for problems that may cause accidents. Make sure that guards on farm equipment are replaced after maintenance. Be sure tractors and equipment have the proper lighting and marking and it is working properly before traveling on the road.
Take a break. Getting out of the tractor or combine for just a few minutes can be very revitalizing and keep the operator more alert.
Discuss safety hazards and emergency procedures with employees as well as family members. Don’t assume everyone knows and understands the dangers that are present on your farm.
Be prepared for emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks and chemical exposures. Every combine should have two fire extinguishers — one in the cab and one on the back of the combine.
To avoid entanglements, always disengage power and turn off the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine.
Hydraulically-raised equipment should be securely blocked before anyone starts working around or under the machine. Do not operate the hydraulic controls from beside or behind the tractor. Operate them only from the tractor seat so you will have full control over the entire machine.
A safe workplace has many benefits for farmers and their farm businesses. The most important is the reduction of serious injuries and fatalities on our farms. The farm business will benefit from improved safety and health practices that reduce time lost due to injury or illness.
The impact an injury has on a farm operation can be dramatic, especially during a busy time like harvest. Suddenly, the person who is responsible for running the combine may not be able to do so because they are recovering for an injury. Even if the recovery period is relatively short, the loss of even two or three days can be vital during this time of year.
The costs associated with an accident, such as workers’ compensation insurance premiums, lost production and medical expenses can have a substantial impact on the farm business’ bottom line. In some cases, there could also be legal ramifications if the farm is thought to be negligent.
On the more positive side, a safer workplace can lead to improved worker morale and productivity. The utilization of safe practices is a conscious choice that begins with a positive safety attitude. That attitude then takes form in safe actions by the farm operator, employees and family members.
This fall choose to be safe and reap the benefits of a safe and healthy farm!
(Julia Nolan Woodruff is an OSU extension educator in Erie County.)