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National Farm Safety & Health Week: Combine Safety

September 20, 2010

This week is National Farm Safety & Health Week, taking place September 19 to 25. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety leads the effort for the week, has been an annual promotion since 1944.

For 2010, the theme is ATVs: Work Smart. Ride Safe to highlight the safe operation of ATVs across the countryside.

With harvest in full swing across farm country, also take combine safety to the field.

Here are some tips from, Oklahoma State University.

Preharvest preparation should:

·         Begin several weeks before harvest to allow necessary Iead time to secure needed replacement parts and to efficiently prepare the combine for harvest.

·         Is a review of your operator’s manual. A quick review will help experienced operators refresh their memories about correct operating procedures and appropriate safety precautions.

·         Should also include a number of other important operations which can help detect potential safety hazards and improve combine efficiency.

·         Thoroughly clean the combine to remove any field trash, rodent nests, and oil or grease buildup.

·         Carefully check for loose or missing nuts, screws, shields, and sheet metal.

·         Inspect all belts, chains, and other drive components.

Field Preparation

·         Begins during tillage and planting.

·         Locate and remove potential hazards such as stumps or large stones.

·         Ditches also pose a hazard to the combine operator. Before harvest, double check your fields for new ditches that were created during the growing season.

·         While planting, allow extra turning space on row ends where there are ditches, power lines, or other such hazards. In general, allow at least one-fourth more turning area than is required by the largest piece of equipment you will be using.

·         Good weed control is important as heavy weeds created plugging problems that increase operator fatigue which may result in careless operation such as dismounting to unplug the combine without first shutting off the power

Service and Maintenance

·         Proper daily service and maintenance can play an important role in safe and efficient combine operation.

·         When refueling the combine, take proper safety precautions to prevent a possible fire or explosion. Allow the combine engine to cool 8 to 10 minutes before refueling to prevent the possibility of igniting gasoline vapors. Keep a suitable class B fire extinguisher (a class B extinguisher is one that is designed to be used on fires involving grease, oil, gasoline, or other petroleum products) available in case of fire. If you spill fuel, wait a few minutes for it to evaporate before starting the engine.

·         Properly secure the header latch, safety stand, or another suitable block before crawling under the header to do service work.Never rely solely on the hydraulic system, as it may fail.

·         Repair leaky hydraulic hoses or connections as soon as you discover them. Do not use your hand to check for leaks. Many hydraulic systems on modern combines operate at pressures at or above 2,000 psi which is three time the pressure required for oil to penetrate your skin. If you get hydraulic fluid or other high pressure oil under your skin, see a doctor at once, serious infection or reaction can develop.

·         Whenever you are performing service or maintenance on your combine, your first step should be to shut off all power.

·         The only service operation that should be done while the machine is running is the adjustment of the variable speed cylinder or fan, which are adjusted with safety shields in place.

Driving the Combine

·         Operating discomfort is not only distracting but it also contributes to fatigue, which is a common cause of accidents. Before operating the combine, adjust the seat and steering column so you can reach all controls easily.

·         The wheels that steer self-propelled combines are rear mounted, just the opposite of tractors. Steering requires practice since rear steering causes the rear end of the combine to swing around rapidly.

·         Self-propelled combines are equipped with two brake pedals, one for each drive wheel. The brakes are used to stop the combine or to assist in turning. When stopping the combine, both brakes should press simultaneously with equal pressure. Uneven brake application can cause the combine to swerve and possibly result in an accident.

·         Ladders and platforms provide access to the operator’s station and service areas of the combine. In order to prevent falls while mounting or dismounting, these areas should be kept clear of loose tools or other items. Use the handrails when getting on or off the combine to prevent falls.

·         Know your combine and its projections in all directions

·         Make sure the area behind the combine is clear before backing.

Field Operation

·         The crop should be in good condition and ready to harvest.

·         If the cylinder or other parts of the combine plug, stop the combine immediately. Before attempting to unplug the combine be sure the engine is shut off and all moving parts have stopped.

·         When checking your combine performance, watch for moving parts which can cause injury.

·         Reaching into the grain bin to get a grain sample while the machine is running could result in your hand contacting leveling augers running below the surface of the grain.

·         To safely check tailings, use the inspection ports where you can safely and conveniently observe material being returned from the shoe to the threshing cylinder.

·         To safely check grain losses behind the machine, disconnect the straw spreader and use a container such as a grain shovel to catch samples.

·         Checks should be made only on smooth ground with the combine moving in a straight line. During periods of extremely dry crop conditions and high temperatures, be especially alert for the fires.

·         Periodically check for overheated bearings that could burn out or start a fire in dry chaff. Keep engine and external bearings clean by regularly removing excess dirt and chaff.

·         Keep a fully charged, 5-pound (or larger) dry chemical fire extinguisher mounted on the operator’s platform in case of fire.

·         When moving the unload auger, be sure that both the swing path for the end of it and the connector joint are free of obstructions.

·         Keep your fingers away from pinch points in the connector during positioning.

·          If grain bridges during unloading, stop the auger before trying to break grain loose. Use a small shovel or pole to break the bridging.

·         If emptying on-the-go, the hauler is primarily responsible for positioning the truck or wagon for unloading without getting too close to the combine. He must be prepared for unexpected stops by the combine and leave plenty of room for the combine to turn at the ends of the field.

·         The combine operator must stop unloading in time for the hauler to turn corners and drive around obstacles safely. If possible, all unloading should take place along straight, level portions of the field.

·         Straw, stalks, and other flying material thrown from choppers can injure nearby people. Make sure everyone is away from the discharge area of the machine before and during operation. Be especially sure that children are safely away before starting up.

·         Never allow extra riders on the combine except for instructional or service purposes. Combines are designed to accommodate only the operator. Allowing additional people on the combine during operation is hazardous.

Moving Combines on Public Roads

To prepare your combine for highway travel, or crossing ditches, follow these safety precautions:

·         Empty the grain tank to reduce weight and lower the center of gravity.

·         Move the unloading auger to the transport position.

·         When practical, remove the header if it is wider than the basic machine, and transport it on a truck or implement carrier.

·         Be sure SMV emblem, reflectors, and lights are in proper working order and that they comply with state laws. Check with local police or sheriff’s office if you have any questions.

·         Measure the height and width of your machine and place or secure this information near the operator’s platform for quick reference.

·         Use guide vehicles with flashers and wide load signs ahead of and behind the combine when roading with the header attached.

For more: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets

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