Make your farm safer over the winter

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MADISON, Wis. – Winter is an ideal time to take steps to make a farm a safer place, according to Mark A. Purschwitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension agricultural safety and health specialist.

“The fall harvest is out of the way and it’s a good time to get started, because once the spring rush starts, it will be more difficult to do what is needed,” Purschwitz said.

Winter work. There are a number of tasks that can be accomplished during winter.

As you put machinery away for the winter, be sure all safety devices are in operating condition, he advised.

Find and fix any safety-related problems you may have noticed but did not take time to repair, such as a missing or broken shield, burned-out light bulb, troublesome switch, or faded SMV emblem.

Do the same for other equipment you might use this winter or next spring. If you wait until next season, you may be in a hurry and may not take the time to fix them.

Purschwitz also advised fixing safety problems in the field such as a hidden hole or washout.

Take care of these problems now, he said, because by next spring you may have forgotten about them.

Housekeeping. Winter is a good time to conduct an all-farm inspection, he added.

“Inspecting machinery for safety problems is important, but you also need to take a slow and observant walk around the entire farmstead.”

Purschwitz said that means checking wiring; the condition of steps, walkways, ladders, gates and fences, and anything else that could cause an injury to you or someone else.

“General housekeeping is important to prevent slips and falls, and sets the overall tone for a safe and orderly operation,” he explained.

It is recommended farmers post warning signs and create barriers around hazardous areas – chemical storage buildings and manure storage facilities – to keep children and other unauthorized people away.

If you have bulls, you should have warning signs, since visitors may not expect bulls to be present and you could be liable if there is an unexpected attack.

You should also have human pass-throughs (two posts 14-18 inches apart where a person can run through but a bull cannot follow) as well as appropriately strong gates, fences and handling equipment.

Purschwitz also recommends that farmers ask themselves if they have fire extinguishers and emergency phone numbers in places where they might be needed quickly.

Has everyone who lives or works on the farm been instructed about where to call for help? Is someone on the farm trained in basic first aid?

Have you consulted with local fire fighters and Emergency Medical Technicians about your farm and how they can best respond to an emergency?

Safety training. Winter is also a good time to conduct safety training for family members and employees. Remember to involve children in a family discussion of farm hazards and safe practices.

There is much you can do during winter to make your farm safer. Don’t wait until spring, when time is at a premium and everyone is in a hurry. Your safety, as well as that of your family and employees, is too important to wait.

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