All across the country, folks are embracing the "farm to table" concept when dining out, which has restaurants sourcing local farms. It’s a boost for those farms and helps the consumer feel good about supporting their community's economy.
But the phrase "farm to table" implies a certain amount of freshness that patrons appreciate, and it doesn't hurt to know where your food comes from. What those satisfied diners might not know is the risk associated with getting that food onto the table. Farming remains one of the "most dangerous occupations" in the country, and as the operator of a farm, you need to take extra precautions every time you step out of the house.
Here are some tips to keep in mind that can help prevent farm equipment accidents:
Farmers often play a version of "beat the clock" when it comes to protecting crops and livestock from a quick-moving weather system. Even getting the animals back into the barn in a small rainstorm can lead to farmers rushing to get the job done.
If you feel like you're rushing, then stop and slow down. This applies to working with equipment, too. Suppose you're in a hurry to bring a crop in, and your thrasher gets jammed. The "fast fix" is to reach your hand in to pull out the debris. Instead, stop and take the time to use a stick or other tool to clear that machine. It just takes a few seconds, and it could literally save your hand. Maybe you should consider carrying a big stick!
Practice Preventative Maintenance
Wouldn't it be great if your tractor could tell you when it’s breaking down? Unfortunately, not every piece of farm equipment comes with a version of a "check engine" light. That’s why you need to remain vigilant. At the beginning and end of farming season is a good time to check your equipment.
Remember: Preventative maintenance inspections prevent major failure. It's all about staying ahead of the potential trouble.
Look Out for Blind Spots
The moment you climb onto a piece of heavy equipment, you’re strapping into a massive blind spot. It’s often a challenge to see areas to the side of or behind the machine.
This is why you need to take precautions and know exactly where other workers are standing. You need to make visitors aware of those blind spots so that they don't step into them. This is something that you also need to teach your children from an early age.
Install Machine Guarding
One of the most accident-prone pieces of equipment on a farm is also the most frequently used — a tractor. The older the tractor, the more likely it is that there could be trouble with a rollover. That’s because the older models don't have machine guarding add-ons, like a rollover bar. Even a seatbelt will go a long way towards protecting you in the event of a rollover. These machine guarding add-ons can also be adapted to many other pieces of farm equipment.
Only Store Dry Grain
If you're storing grain in a silo, it’s important that the grain is dry. This ensures that it can flow freely without clumping. When it does clump, the inclination is to climb in to free the flow. That’s when entrapment accidents occur. This can be a major problem for someone who’s working alone on the farm.
Deploy Flashers/Emblems While on the Road
Not every accident involving farm equipment actually happens on the farm. Sometimes you might be required to ride your equipment down the road. The moment you turn onto a public road, you should hit the flashers. You also want to make sure your equipment displays a Slow Moving Vehicle emblem.
There might be some drivers who aren't happy about getting stuck behind a slow-moving tractor. That’s really their problem and not yours. You should never try to speed up or pull over on a dangerous shoulder just to accommodate them. They'll get to where they need to go soon enough.
As a final note on farm accident prevention, remember that it could also help to make sure you have a solid evacuation plan in case of severe weather, such as a hurricane or tornado. Everyone working on the farm should be aware of that plan, and be briefed in advance of any expectations you have for them.
A few extra steps go a long way toward keeping everyone on the farm safe.