Money-Saving Tip: Don’t Short-Change Your Farm on Safety

February 28, 2014 10:02 PM
Money-Saving Tip: Don’t Short-Change Your Farm on Safety

Editor's note: We’ve gathered several experts to offer suggestions on trimming expenses in light of tighter margins in 2014. This is one of 10 money-saving tips.

Every year, farming accidents injure thousands of employees and family members -- and kill hundreds more. You may already know that agriculture is the nation’s most hazardous industry. But did you know that injury rates are highest among children age 15 and younger and adults over 65? Or that most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery?

Whether you’re a grain grower expecting tighter margins or a dairy producer pushing production to take advantage of strong milk prices, be sure to keep farm safety precautions high on your priorities list this year. No one wants the human toll or the financial losses that come with farm accidents.

In 2012, the fatality rate for agriculture workers was 21.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, the highest of any industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Between 2003 and 2011, 5,816 agricultural workers died from work-related injuries in the U.S.

Today, tractor rollovers are the single deadliest type of injury incident on U.S. farms, OSHA says. Tractor deaths tell only a small part of the story, because for every person killed in a tractor incident, four people are non-fatally injured in tractor overturns. Dangers exist from improperly hitching a tractor, using steer skidders incorrectly, carbon monoxide poisoning, and clothing and hair entanglement in improperly guarded moving parts.

OSHA recommends these safety recommendations for tractor and harvester hazards:

• Since harvesting equipment may be used once a year over relatively few days, re-familiarize yourself with the equipment by inspecting it and reviewing proper operating procedures.

• Adding harvesting equipment to tractors can change the balance of the vehicle and requires operators’ constant attention.

• Plan harvesting so that equipment travels downhill on steep slopes to avoid overturns. Space tractor wheels as far apart as possible when operating on slopes.

Here are other steps you can take to stay safe on your farm:

• Improve farm safety by first increasing your awareness of farming hazards. Make a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations, including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires, and chemical exposures.

• Discuss safety hazards and emergency procedures with your employees and family members.

• Use protective equipment, such as seat belts on tractors, and personal protective equipment such as safety gloves, coveralls, boots, hats, aprons, goggles, and face shields to help reduce farm-related injuries.

• Install protective structures, enclosures or frames on tractors.

• Make sure that guards on farm equipment are replaced after maintenance.

• Take precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos or hoppers. Never "walk the grain."

• Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can form in unventilated grain silos and manure pits, and they can suffocate or poison workers or explode.

• Take advantage of safety equipment, such as bypass starter covers, power take-off master shields and slow-moving vehicle emblems.

Employees also should understand the dangers of the Power Take-Off (PTO) shaft. Clothing can get caught in PTOs and the associated shafts and joints. The worker may be pulled into the shaft, which often results in loss of a limb or death. Some implements do use plastic guards to try to keep a person from becoming entangled in a PTO shaft, but even with guards, operators need to exercise caution around PTO shafts when they are connected into a tractor or truck. When working with PTOs, remember:

• All shielding should remain in place and any damaged or missing shields should be replaced.

• Employees should not wear loose clothing or have long hair while working around a running machine. Hair and clothing can be caught by the machinery.

• Equipment operators should stop the PTO when dismounting from the vehicle.

Find more on farm safety here and here.



Keep Your Production Costs in Check for 2014

With grain prices dropping, it’s time to get creative. There is no one-size-fits-all-farmers answer, but there are numerous ways to more closely align costs with returns. Here are the money-saving tips we've gathered.

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