Focus on Safety

March 28, 2009 07:31 AM

Safety on the farm is a year-round worry. Hazards are everywhere, and livestock operations often carry the most risk—so much so that equipment companies are making an effort to promote equipment safety with livestock producers.

At the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's annual convention this past January in Phoenix, Ariz., equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. hosted skid-steer safety sessions for producers of all ages. Outside the trade show, Caterpillar staff gave adults an opportunity to run new skid steers, while local Caterpillar dealers led safety training for youth.

Tony Newlin and Craig Reidhead, training services representatives at the Empire dealership in Mesa, Ariz., led many of the youth attending the show in a walk-around safety explanation of Caterpillar skid-steer machines.

"Most accidents happen from trips and falls. That's why we have safety steps—to prevent those accidents from happening,” Reidhead said.

The second most common cause of skid-steer accidents is operator error. "Any time you make direction changes, ease into a stop before going forward or reverse. You don't want to operate this machine without putting on a safety belt, either” Newlin said.

Smaller operators should move the safety arms further in by adjusting the dial on the side of the seat. A dial under the seat adjusts the rider's seat suspension by weight.
Other safety rules include:

1. Wear your seat belt. Seat belts protect the operator in a collision, but they also keep the operator inside the cab's rollover protection structure. Farm machinery is more likely to be involved in rollover accidents than collisions due to changing terrain.

2. Properly enter and exit skid steer. Never mount or exit a moving machine. Keep contact areas clear of mud and debris, and make sure all steps and handrails are secure and the area is properly lit. Maintain three points of contact when moving on or off equipment. (Either one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot should be on the steps and handrail.) Do not use steering controls as handholds when entering or exiting.

3. Make the shop safe. Use all safety locks, and keep guards and shields in place. Make sure you have proper lighting and the necessary safety equipment in stock. Wear eye protection.

4. Handle grain properly. Train workers to not wear loose, unbuttoned or torn clothing. Lock entrances to grainhandling areas, and label facilities to warn of entrapment hazards.

5. Beware of the bunker silo. Inspect silo walls for cracks and foundation problems before filling. If foundation problems are present, the weight of new materials may damage walls, which may collapse when the materials are removed.

6. No free rides. Limit equipment access to people who have been instructed on proper operation. Falls from equipment are a common cause of injury. Keep platforms, foot plates and steps clear of mud and manure.

7. Wear the proper clothing. Wear eye and face protectors when exposed to flying particles.

8. Make safe attachment changes. Adhere to warning labels on forks, buckets and other skid-steer attachments. Know the maximum operating capacities, and be aware of work tool clearance. Before making a work tool change, check hydraulic hoses and fittings on the tool and host machine.

9. Conduct a preshift walk-around. Make sure there are no leaks, cuts, cracks, rubbing or excessive wear on machine elements. Keep windows clean and free from accumulating debris.

10. Commit to safety. Prepare a safety manual for specific conditions on your farm. Ensure that equipment is used for its intended purpose, and forbid removal of safety guards or protective gear. Provide regular safety training for existing and new employees.

You can e-mail Sara Brown at

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