Spring and summer are important times on any family farm or homestead. They are times of planting and growing before the autumn harvest.
They are also potentially dangerous, unfortunately. Agriculture is the most dangerous employment sector in the U.S. Accidents happen frequently if people are unprepared or inattentive. They also happen more to certain age groups; children under 15 and people 65 or older have more agricultural accidents than other age groups.
It’s not just accident frequency that poses a danger, either. Many farms, homesteads, and ranches are in rural areas where access to a hospital is not quick or convenient.
Fortunately, training on proper safety techniques and practices is half the battle in keeping accidents to a minimum for your family. The other half is raising the awareness level. Everyone on a farm should be aware their surroundings are not just rural, beautiful, and fertile, but potentially dangerous because of tractors, other machinery, hydraulics, and more.
Here are four areas where training and awareness pays off:
In some states, tractors cause the most accidents and fatalities on farms and homesteads. In Texas, for example, tractor accidents cause 500 to 600 deaths annually:
• Forty-two percent of accidents with tractors stem from drivers being run over.
• Thirty-six percent are caused by the tractor rolling over.
• Five percent happen because riders fall off the tractor and get run over by equipment attached to the tractor.
The nature of these accidents, however, points to the training and awareness required. The first order of business is to read the operator’s manual, including its safety precaution advice. The second is to train new workers on driving and operating. Include supervision both on the farm and on the highway until you are satisfied the driver is highly competent.
Make sure each tractor has an approved roll-over protective structure. These have an excellent ability to prevent injuries when combined with a seatbelt.
Require operators to always wear a seatbelt in a tractor. Do not disembark and walk around without turning the tractor off and disengaging the drives. Never permit an extra rider. A tractor is a one-person operation vehicle, and one person is all it needs. A rider can cause the driver to be inattentive.
Accidents involving forklifts and other powered, industrial, lift trucks cause roughly 107 deaths and 34,000 serious injuries each year. Farmers should be aware that improper handling of a forklift can result in serious damage to their property, warehouses, and the farm’s productivity, too. Approximately 20,000 workdays are lost each year to forklift accidents.
Because forklifts are complicated, it’s a good idea to invest in training sessions for your family. Firms will often come to site-specific areas either to train all workers or train a trainer, who then trains all your workers. Equipment-specific training is also available.
Hydraulic equipment must be kept in good repair. Remind everyone working on the farm that hydraulic pressure can be forceful enough to knock someone unconscious in the event of a leak or explosion.
Before spring planting, be sure to inspect all parts of any hydraulic system. Couplings, hoses, lines, and fitting should also receive a thorough going-over. Replace or repair anything in less than good condition.
Before disconnecting any hydraulic cylinders, lock transport wheels and support jacks in place. This will ensure no abrupt shocks to the equipment and thus avoid personal injury.
Equipment on the Road
Whether you will be driving your equipment on public roads depends on your farm’s layout. If you do drive outside the farm, there are special safety precautions to train people on and instill awareness about.
You are required to get a slow moving vehicle (SMV) reflector emblem if you will be driving vehicles at less than 25 miles per hour. It’s a good idea to replace these every two to three years. Although additional reflector tape is not specifically required, tape on the edges will increase your visibility and thus your safety.
Be sure to train all farm workers on proper road regulations, such as right of way and turning. You must also have lights on farm equipment driven on public roads if they will be driving at night or in inclement weather, where there may be reduced visibility.
Generally, avoiding public roads is the safest strategy. If that’s not possible, avoid rush hour or times of heavy traffic in your area. If many cars cluster behind you, pull over as long as you can do so safely. Do not attempt to pull over on a shoulder with farm equipment. It may provoke a rollover.
Vigilance Helps Families Stay Safe During the Harvest
Farm safety before the harvest is of paramount important to ensuring the well-being of everyone in your family. Farm work can be healthy and pleasant, but it needs to be safe as well. Be sure to train everyone and make sure they are aware of potential dangers.