Fall harvest safety tips

Some common sense tips can help prevent farm accidents during harvest season.

During the fall harvest season, countless hours will be spent in combines, tractors, trucks and other equipment by farmers and workers who will be transporting large equipment on our roads and highways. Some workers may be young, new or inexperienced, so it’s always a good suggestion to go over safety considerations with all workers to teach or reinforce the importance of safety on the farm.

Agriculture ranks among the nation’s most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, and farming is one of the few industries in which family members, who often share the work and live on the premises, are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.03 million youth under 20 years of age resided on farms in 2009, with about 519,000 youth performing farm work. In 2010, 476 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 26.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers.

Here are a few safety tips from Michigan State University Extension to consider on your farm as producers prepare for the harvest season.

  • Read operators manual(s).
  • Install Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs.
  • Wear seat belts.
  • Put equipment in neutral or park, engage parking brake, and turn off engine before dismounting. Wait until all mechanisms have stopped moving before attempting to service or unclog a machine.
  • Locking hydraulic cylinders or supporting the head prior to working under it is always recommended.
  • Limit riders on equipment! Instructional seats are designed for training or diagnosing machine problems.
  • Keep all guards in place.
  • Take breaks. Get enough sleep.
  • Train all operators to safely operate the equipment.
  • Fatigue, stress, medication, alcohol and drugs cause you to not focus on tasks.
  • Have all safety equipment in proper condition and ready to use such as safety glasses, hearing protection and respiratory masks.
  • Have ROPS (rollover protective structures) fitted on tractors.

More information on road and tractor safety

For more information, contact MSU Extension’s Phil Kaatz at 810-667-0341 or kaatz@msu.edu.

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