In observance of National Farm Safety and Health Week, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is looking at a particular accident that is unique to the farming community – combine fires.
It’s a problem that’s not totally unavoidable, even if you’re careful. That’s because potential fuel sources – leaves, stalks, husks, dust, etc. – are in constant contact with exhaust, bearings and electrical wiring on your farm equipment. The risk is ever-present.
"Equipment fires are not only dangerous but are often extremely costly for farmers," says NCGA President and Maryland farmer Chip Bowling. "During this busy season, a fire can halt harvest work in an instant, causing property damage and consuming valuable time. Building risk management practices into your harvest schedule could end up saving both time and money."
To minimize risk, NCGA recommends the following best practices for farmers.
1. Clean your equipment. Did you know 75% of all machinery fires start in the engine compartment? A thorough clean will help it to run cooler, operate more efficiently and greatly reduce the risk of fire. Use a pressure washer or high-pressure air to remove caked-on grease, oil and crop residue.
2. Keep it clean. That includes blowing off dry chaff, leaves and other material frequently. Also, look for possible leaking fuel, oil hoses, fittings or metal lines. Don’t put off repairing any discovered leaks.
3. Eliminate risky heat sources. Bowling points to exhaust system surfaces that contain flammable material in particular. Check that the manifold, muffler and turbocharger are in good condition and leak-free. Again, make repairs immediately upon discovery.
4. Check for signs of wiring damage every day. Frequently blowing fuses and intermittent circuit disruptions are two signs there could be a short or loose connection in the system. Also check for worn bearings, belts and chains frequently.
5. Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby. And don’t underestimate an equipment fire – they’re dangerous! Immediately exit the vehicle, maintain a safe distance and call for help immediately.
NCGA recommends reading these additional fire safety and prevention tips from Iowa State University.