The Most Important Safety Basics for Small Farmers
By Holly Welles
Farm safety may seem trivial, especially if you’ve worked on a ranch for several years. You may feel you already know everything there is to know. However, everyone can benefit from learning about or refreshing their knowledge of farm safety. If you are already aware of the following precautions and laws, share them with a friend, employee or family member. Doing so could prevent accidents and injuries to those you hold most dear.
Purchase a Tractor With ROPS
Tractors are one of the most common types of machinery on farms. They’re also a major cause of death due to lack of rollover safety. Each year, five people die for every 100,000 tractors in operation. Therefore, it’s incredibly important you purchase a tractor with rollover protective structures. Nearly all rollovers in tractors without this safety mechanism end in fatalities.
If your current tractor doesn’t have ROPS, contact your local farm equipment dealer. They may be able to point you to someone who can design, manufacture and install ROPS.
Regardless of whether your tractor has ROPS or not, you should still perform regular maintenance on it to ensure it is functioning correctly. This will reduce the risk of a malfunction due to missing or broken parts. Inspect brakes, hitches, tires, safety chains and springs for wear and tear, and check hydraulics and airlines for cracks.
You likely spent a pretty penny on that tractor or rotary tiller, and the last thing you want to do is purchase another one before you have to. Performing regular maintenance will prolong the life of your machinery and save you money in the long run. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your equipment, replacing old parts before they break can protect both you and your wallet.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
As you know, farms can be full of wandering animals, curious children, uneven terrain and other equipment. For this reason, you must always be aware of your surroundings. If you aren’t paying attention 24/7 or choose to operate machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you’re being careless. This could result in a serious and regrettable accident.
You can also minimize your risk of accidents by limiting the amount of time you spend within animal enclosures. Livestock crush injuries are incredibly common and can occur when you get pinned between an animal and a fence or wall. Often, this involves farmers’ hands, which are the leading body part injured at work and treated at hospitals. It’s best to stay out of enclosures with lots of animals, as it’s difficult to know where each one is at all times.
Read the Manual
The first thing many owners of shiny new farm equipment do is toss aside the owner’s manual. What better way to understand a machine than to figure it out on your own, right? This line of thinking may explain accidents due to user error. Avoid life-threatening mistakes by reading the manual and completely understanding how your machines work before using them.
Pay particular attention to the safety instructions and follow them closely to prevent injury to you, others or your machine. Flipping through the manual will also help you better understand the mechanics behind your equipment. This will help you know what to look for during maintenance inspections.
Obey Traffic Laws
Sometimes, you must drive your tractor or other farm machinery on roadways to transport goods. You’ll likely be navigating narrow country roads with higher speed limits. Both of these factors — as well as high traffic volume — contribute to a greater risk of an equipment crash. However, there are measures you can take to minimize your chances of colliding with another vehicle.
For example, the law requires you to mount a slow-moving vehicle sign on your equipment if it cannot maintain speeds over 40 kilometers per hour. This alerts other vehicles to your slower pace, thereby preventing collisions. You should also try to avoid using major roads or traveling during high-traffic times to reduce your risk of a crash.
Prepare for Emergencies
Regardless of how closely you follow all rules and precautions, accidents still happen. Therefore, it’s important to understand safety basics for small farmers. Have a first-aid kit on hand for easy access and train at least one employee in basic care. Keep a working phone or radio on you at all times in case you must contact someone for immediate help. Have a plan in place and make sure everyone on the farm understands it.
Of course, you never hope to actually use this plan. However, preparing in advance and expecting emergencies may save a life.
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