Let’s all practice farm safety

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(Editor’s note: This week, we begin a monthly column on livestock production issues and farm management concerns written by members of the Penn State Cooperative Extension livestock team. Please feel free to submit questions or topics you could like covered in a future column.)

By ED PRUSS

A secure, healthy food supply is everyone’s business in the livestock world. So is the safety of farmers and farm workers producing this abundant food supply.

Farmers, and others working in agriculture, need to be aware of, promote and practice safety measures on a year-round basis.

Danger zone

Agriculture has the dubious distinction of being one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. With some training, common sense and some safety knowledge, that distinction can be changed.

Take advantage of farm safety training when it’s offered at farm machinery/equipment trainings, webinars, etc. sponsored by local/area equipment dealerships, Cooperative Extension, or farm organizations. But you can also simply slow down, assess any possible safety challenges, and apply a healthy dose of common sense, maturity and a sense of responsibility to any safety situation.

Here is a list of 15 safety reminders that all farms, farmers and farm families should observe. It’s only a partial listing that could impact livestock farmers and others. You may want to add your own safety reminders to this list.

1. Farmers need to do daily safety and maintenance checks on all tractors used to perform farm work. Checking fuel, oil, coolant, brake and clutch adjustment, seat position, hydraulics and PTO (power take-off) are just some of the basic checks.

2. Farm tractors have one seat. This means one operator and NO extra riders on fenders, hitches or in front-end loader buckets.

3. All farm tractors and any attached or trailing farm equipment must display the triangular, blaze orange Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem. This is critically important when farm tractors and implements are traveling on public highways where they are moving at a slower rate of speed than the other traffic on a public highway. The use of headlights, flashing blinkers and 4-way lights can help to insure safer travel on public highways.

4. All operators of newer tractors equipped with a 2-point or 4-point ROPS (Rollover Protective Structure), must also wear the seatbelt provided in order to be protected in a backward or sideways flip.

5. Be cautious around all livestock that have given birth. The usually quiet, gentle livestock mother can become overly protective of their newborn offspring and can cause bodily injury to any livestock handler. Caution, also to farm owners, workers, children and farm visitors when handling or working around breeding-age bulls, rams, boars and billy goats.

6. Be aware of potentially deadly silo gas when chopping and placing corn silage in an upright silo. Be sure to run the forage blower for a while before entering an upright silo to perform leveling or capping chores. Let someone know that you intend to enter the silo to perform work. Better yet, have a second person tie a rope around your waist as a safety measure to rescue you if you are overcome by this gas.

7. Be aware of the potentially deadly outcome when working around or in a grain bin or storage. Any person who must enter a grain bin or storage to perform work must tie a safety rope around their waist. A second person needs to be at the end of that rope to keep the first worker from falling thru the grain (corn, oats, wheat, etc.) and possibly becoming trapped and suffocating in the flowing grain.

8. Never trust any hydraulically-raised equipment, such as front-end loaders, dump trailers, etc. Use a length of sturdy pipe or a wooden pole to prop up this farm equipment. If a hydraulic system fails or a hydraulic hose bursts, the raised equipment, if properly supported, will not fall and cause a crushing injury or a fatality to the operator.

9. Be aware of steep hillsides when harvesting any crop on the farm. Proceed slowly and be aware of woodchuck holes, large, partially exposed rocks and any other obstructions that can cause a tractor to roll-over on a hillside. Avoid the use of tricycle-type farm tractors on steep hillsides.

10. Never step-over a running PTO shaft, especially with loose jackets, pant legs, etc.

11. Be sure all PTO shields and other safety shields are in good repair and properly secured on all farm equipment. Replace lost or damaged safety shields.

12. When work has to be performed on a farm implement, be sure that the PTO has been shut off and that all machine movement has ceased.

13. Always wait for a hot engine to cool before attempting to re-fuel a tractor. Tractor engine fires have occurred because fuel (especially gas) was spilled on a hot engine.

14. Never start a tractor in a closed garage or shed. The carbon monoxide (CO) threat can cause a human and/or animal fatality. Keep well-ventilated.

15. Be sure to match farm equipment/implements to a tractor that is compatible to that equipment/implement. This important tractor-to-implement combination is to avoid skidding on hillsides, pushing on inclines and possibly causing a jackknife situation in a barnyard or on a public roadway.

Farmers need to make good decisions when working with all of their farm machines and livestock to respect their potential farm accident/farm safety challenges.

Remember, farm safety means no accident.

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Ed Pruss is a Penn State educator in Wayne County, with programming responsibilities in beef production, dairy production, small ruminants, small-scale swine production and 4-H. Contact him at edp4@psu.edu, or 570-253-5970 x4110.

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