Harvest is right around the corner, and it is critical to know about safety on the road, safety for the field, and equipment safety. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevent, often referred to as the CDC, agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. The CDC states, “Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries; and farming is one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.” Everyday about 100 workers in the agriculture industry will suffer an injury that will take them out of work for any given amount of time. This information doesn’t take into account rural residents that don’t work in the industry and have encounters with farmers during harvest.
The most frequent rural resident encounter with farmers is on the roads. It is important to always be cautious and patient. As the person in the non-equipment vehicle, give yourself space between you and the equipment and always be cautious of what signals the equipment is using! The farmers use their hazards to indicate that you need to take caution around them, but they also make turns into places your vehicle would not normally go. So, it is important to watch turn signals and understand that they likely have a destination you may not expect. When passing equipment, pass carefully. Many farmers will pull over for you to pass safely, but it is important to still use your judgement when making the decision to pass. At this time of year be ready to start seeing more farm equipment on the road and be considerate that they are trying to get to their job too.
Although many farmers have been through countless harvest seasons, it never hurts to discuss basic harvest safety tips. First, we have discussed what a vehicle should do on the road with equipment, but what should the equipment be doing? It is recommended that there be reflective tape or reflectors on the widest parts of the machine. A slow-moving vehicle emblem is beneficial on the piece of equipment that is furthest back. Next, for entanglement hazards, always keep protective shields on the machinery in place. Before trying to clear a plugged machine, be sure to turn off all power. Never try to feed twine to a baler by hand. Next, fire safety tips include having a fire extinguisher and clearing dust and buildup from equipment. Removing dust and buildup can decrease the chance of overheating and fire.
Grain wagons and bins hold their own dangers too. For a grain wagon, it is important to monitor grain weight and how close the weight is to the maximum limit. The higher the weight is, the more difficult a grain wagon can be to control, especially if the grain weight is not distributed evenly in the wagon. It is also important to check the tires on the wagon. Riding on a grain wagon is dangerous because of the risk of falling off or falling into the grain. If you fall into the grain, it is very easy to become trapped and suffocate. Getting trapped in the grain is also a huge safety concern that is talked about when discussing grain bin safety. If you are entering a grain bin, it is very important to wear a harness attached to a secured rope and never work alone. Children should never get too close or go inside the bin with grain inside. Finally, one of the more overlooked safety concerns is how rested the operator is. The time frame to complete harvesting can be a very short window sometimes, but it is crucial that the operator has had enough sleep to stay alert while on the equipment.
Overall, harvest safety comes down to being cautious and patient with the equipment. There are even more harvest safety tips that could be addressed, but the best piece of advice for a farmer is to understand the risks of the pieces of equipment you are using before you operate them. Harvest can be a stressful time for farmers due to time constraints and outside factors, so a checklist of safety precautions can be beneficial to have ready before harvest gets busy. To the residents traveling on the road with farm equipment, remember to be cautious and understand that at this time of year you will likely encounter equipment on the road. Remember to be kind and courteous to the farmers.