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Oct 1, 2014
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June 2014 Archive for Farm Talk on the Front Porch

RSS By: Grinnell Mutual, AgWeb.com

You face risks as you cultivate crops and raise livestock. We’ll share tips, stories and recommendations to help you protect property and prevent costly losses on the farm. It's our Policy of Working Together®.

Boating under the influence: Stay dry when you are on the water

Jun 27, 2014

Alcohol use is the primary contributing factor in recreational boater deaths, according to data compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. The sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol.

Whether paddling a canoe on a creek or piloting a pontoon boat on a lake, Grinnell Mutual recommends that boaters enjoy the pleasures of boating responsibly.

"There is a misconception that you can drink on the water without consequences," said Larry Gallagher, director of corporate loss control at Grinnell Mutual. "Excessive alcohol and boating do not mix. Boaters should consider the safety of those in their boats and the other boats near them."

Boating while intoxicated is against the law

boatingOperating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against federal law and most state laws. Boating under the influence (BUI) laws pertain to all vessels, from canoes to motorboats and pontoons. 

"Drunk boating and boating under the influence is more than a careless choice made by a few isolated boaters. Adults and children are killed every year in accidents on the water caused by boaters who were operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol," said John Fetterman, spokesperson for Operation Dry Water, a national campaign to build awareness for safe boating practices.

Boaters should also be aware of those who share the water with them. Be prepared with proper safety equipment, including life jackets for each passenger on board.

"We don’t always know how much alcohol the other boaters on the lake have consumed," said Gallagher, who is also a boat owner. "An intoxicated boater might panic or oversteer, react inappropriately, and cause an accident."

For more information

For more information about safe boating, visit Operation Dry Water, a joint program of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard, at operationdrywater.org.


Dress for success when you ride to work on a motorcycle

Jun 16, 2014

Many people think of motorcycles as mere recreational vehicles, but for many of the 8.5 million Americans who own motorcycles, they are also a means of transportation to and from work. On International Motorcycle & Scooter Ride to Work Day, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company encourages you to dress for success when you ride by wearing gear that provides comfort and protection.

Matt Williams, senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual, knows how important dressing for success on the ride can be. He walked away from a motorcycle crash in 2003.

"I slid about 100 yards down the interstate, face first with just a thin face shield protecting my face from the asphalt. My motorcycle-specific jacket was torn at the shoulder and elbow," said Williams, who has also taught motorcycle safety for more than 15 years. "My gear allowed me to walk away from the wreck."

From helmet to boots, the right gear will provide comfort and protection from abrasion, impact, and the elements.

ride to workHead and eyes

"Your helmet will be one of your most important purchases," said Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for on-highway activities for the American Motorcyclist Association. "Don’t skimp on it, but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to buy a good one, either. If your helmet is sized properly and has the features you’re looking for, it’s money well spent."

When selecting a helmet, visit a dealership or store and try it on. You may not know how the helmet purchased online will fit."If your helmet is uncomfortable, try a different one," said Williams. "Everybody’s head is a little different."

The American Motorcyclist Association recommends purchasing a DOT-compliant helmet because it will provide an acceptable level of protection. Replace your helmet after an impact or every three to five years. Helmets come in a variety of styles, from half helmets to a full-face helmet with a flip-up shield.  Many states require riders to wear a helmet and eyewear.

"In the Midwestern states where Grinnell Mutual insures motorcyclists, helmet laws range from no regulations to full helmets and restrictions on the kind of padding they have," said Pam Bryan, director of commercial underwriting at Grinnell Mutual. "Many states also require eye protection. A grasshopper to the eye can be devastating."

Upper body and hands

A jacket and pair of gloves should provide a balance of fit, comfort, and protection that is right for you and the length of your ride. It’s especially important to think about protecting your hands from heat loss while riding, especially in cool or wet weather.

"As the motorcycle is moving, the wind accelerates the loss of heat from the body. Your hands are often the first to get cold on a ride," said Szauter. "You don’t want to lose the mobility you have in your hands, because they help steer the bike and operate controls."

Lower body and feet

At a minimum, wear sturdy jeans or some leg protection. Boots designed for riding will be comfortable while providing foot and ankle protection.

"Jeans will not provide much protection for abrasion or impact, but they’re certainly better than shorts," said Szauter, who sometimes rides his sport touring bike to work.

Eventually, you will stop your motorcycle and put your feet on the ground. Shoes or riding boots with quality soles allow riders to plant their feet well and hold the bike upright, especially on wet or oily roads.

Enjoy the ride to work

Whether you ride to work or ride for pleasure, wearing comfortable gear that protects you will help make every ride an enjoyable one. 

"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Williams. "If you’re out there in shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops, and no helmet, how have you prepared for the worst?"

For more tips on how to enjoy motorcycling and other recreational activities safely, visit the Front Porch blog at grinnellmutual.com.


Spraying your fields

Jun 12, 2014

Good fences may make good neighbors, but the chemicals and herbicides you spray on your fields obey the wind and weather more than fence lines. 

"Farmers are usually under the gun to get their crops sprayed," said Vicky Hartgers, farm claims manager at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "They are fighting the weather to do that."

Before you spray your fields, Grinnell Mutual recommends talking to your neighbors, watching the weather forecast, and taking your time to prepare for spraying. It could prevent a costly accident.

1. Take your time.

Mother Nature challenges farmers, giving them narrow windows to spray fields. 

"Sometimes a farmer can avoid a windy day and other times they just need to get that field sprayed," said Hartgers. "Be aware if there’s a garden, organic crops, or a vineyard next door. If the wind changes, you need to do something different."

Other times farmer can inadvertently mix chemicals incorrectly, using an improper nozzle, or even grabbing the wrong container to add to a mix. Take a few moments to review the product label closely and the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each chemical. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for nozzle type and spray boom height and document information about your spraying.

2. Watch the weather.

Whether spraying your own fields or hiring a contract sprayer, weather conditions may cause spray to drift, also called off-target movement. Either way, the spray could damage crops, trees, and organics in neighboring fields and properties.

"When processing crop damage claims, it’s not unusual for us to hear stories about changes in the weather," said Hartgers. "We hear, ‘I saw him out there. When he started the wind was five miles per hour but then it was blowing 25 miles per hour and he didn’t stop.’"

Humidity and even a light breeze can create serious drifting hazards for certain chemicals, so know how the chemicals you apply will react to the weather, the wind conditions, and the humidity. 

"There is a misconception that applying chemicals when there is no wind will eliminate all possible concerns with chemical drift," said Larry Gallagher, director of corporate loss control at Grinnell Mutual. "Many chemical manufacturers recommend against applying chemicals when the wind speed is less than three miles per hour because small chemical droplets may remain suspended in air and result in off target chemical movement should the wind pick up after application." 

A handheld wind gauge for use in the field to monitor wind direction and velocity can certainly be a valuable tool to assist in the decision making related to chemical application. Maintaining documentation on wind information and related weather conditions may be beneficial should an allegation of chemical damage to crops or fruit trees occur in the future. Application of chemicals within the recommended range of temperatures may also help to prevent damage to crops and other vegetation.

"I truly think it comes down to the knowing the chemicals or herbicides you are using and the weather that day," said Hartgers. "We see issues with farmers that spray late in the day, right before the dew sets. Be aware of the time. Before you spray, check to see if the chemicals will have adequate time to dry before moisture sets in for the evening."

3. Talk to your neighbors.

Hartgers sees more farmers working together to prevent issues with drift, planting not just the same kind of grain, but the same herbicide-ready seed so that no one damages anything when they spray.

"In a lot of the states where we do business, there are no fences between fields anymore. They farm row to row," said Hartgers, who also farms with her husband. "The farmers who have fewer problems are the ones who keep their neighbors informed. Know your neighbors and what they are growing in your area. Most of them understand that spraying is a part of crop farming."

For more farming tips, visit the Front Porch blog at grinnellmutual.com.

How you can prevent heat illness this summer

Jun 02, 2014

Summertime is great for outdoor work and play. Whether you’re at home, on the farm, or in a park, it’s a good idea to be aware of the weather and temperatures. Grinnell Mutual recommends preparing for your time outside and listening to you body to help prevent heat illness during summer months.

Before you go outside

No matter how long you plan to be out in the sunshine, wear sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater), sunglasses rated to absorb ultraviolet (UV) rays, lightweight clothing made of breathable fabrics, and a hat. A wide-brimmed hat may help keep the sun off of your neck and ears.

"When you put the sunscreen on, make sure it has enough time to dry and that it has soaked in," said Julie Augustine, health and safety manager at Grinnell Mutual. 

Bringing water with you may help you prevent dehydration.

"If you wait until you’re thirsty, you are dehydrated," said Augustine. "Drink water frequently— just good old-fashioned water. Weak tea would be a good second choice, but not juices or sodas. I got in the habit of having a jug by all my gardening tools so when I get my garden gloves and my little spades then I have a reminder to have water, too."

Listen to your body

Overexertion accounts for about 3.3 million emergency room visits per year in the United States and symptoms can be heightened in the heat. As you work and play in the summer sun, try to take regular water breaks. It may also help to seek shade during breaks, too. 

"If it’s really one of those hot, steamy days, one way to get your body acclimated from air conditioning to an outdoor activity is to plan your work," said Augustine. "Don’t jump right in to moving the railroad ties in the direct sun. Instead, do some yard work in the shade or part shade and then work up to the strenuous activity to help your body get acclimated to the demands you’re placing on it and the outdoor conditions."

Helping someone with a heat illness

Hot, humid, and sunny weather taxes the body. The combination of dehydration, loss of salts, and increasing body temperatures may cause a heat illness.

"There are two levels to heat illness," said Augustine. "Heat exhaustion is the first level. That’s where somebody is sweating heavily, feeling weak or tired, dizzy, or nauseated. The person may also have muscle cramps and clammy skin." 

To treat heat exhaustion, start by getting rest.

"Get in air conditioning or get in shade," said Augustine. 

Next, start drinking water. The National Safety Council also recommends cooling someone affected by heat exhaustion by removing outer layers of clothing. If it’s not possible to immerse that person in a pool or bath, then apply ice bags or cold packs to the neck, armpits, and groin to help reduce body temperature.

Heat stroke

When you get to heatstroke, the symptoms are more extreme. 

"They’re stroke symptoms, in a nutshell," said Augustine. "Because of the elevated body temperature, the skin is really hot and dry. Someone with heat stroke could also have chills, throbbing headaches, hallucinations, confusion, or slurred speech."

If someone with you shows signs of heat stroke, you can help by doing the following:

  • Call 911.
  • Move the person to a cool place and remove outer clothing.
  • Immediately cool the person with any means at hand. Apply ice bags or cold packs beside the neck, armpits and groin.
  • Do not give the person anything containing caffeine or alcohol. 
  • Be ready to provide CPR if breathing stops. 

"Don’t leave the person cooking in the sun," said Augustine. "Get into the shade, try to cool him or her, and call 911. You just need more help than what you can probably handle yourself."


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