Many people don’t realize that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that during 2008, the most recent year for statistics, one in every six fatal workplace injuries in Indiana happened in agriculture. The agriculture industry also has the state’s highest rate of non-fatal injuries and illnesses. Crop production activities carry the greatest risk of injury.
As local farmers get ready to plant their fields, Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC) urges them to focus on safety so they don’t become part of those alarming statistics. “A substantial number of farming injuries occur during planting season,” notes Rick Coons, CEO at IEC. “It’s a very busy time, and farmers are anxious to put their crops in the ground. Pausing briefly to review safety practices and check equipment can reduce the potential for injuries and damage to equipment.”
The start of planting season is also a good time to think about electrical safety on the farm. Many types of farm equipment, such as augers, can stretch high enough that they can come in contact with power lines. Accidentally striking a power pole can bring a live line down on a tractor or other piece of equipment, causing serious injury or death.
It’s just as important to consider the safety of stationary equipment. “One smart measure is to have a lockout/tagout system, especially for equipment with remote power sources,” Coons says. “A lockout/tagout system ensures that nobody can inadvertently apply power to a piece of equipment that’s being maintained. Proper grounding is also important given the conditions under which farm equipment is used.”
Inspecting planting equipment and performing needed maintenance decreases the likelihood that planting will be interrupted by breakdowns or other mechanical problems. “You should check everything from tires and lights to hydraulic systems. It’s also a good idea to look over operating manuals, especially for equipment that you haven’t used since last spring,” says Coons. “You’ll be less likely to make a mistake when you’re out in the field.”
Because it may have been a while since most equipment has been used, verify that all of the proper safety equipment is in good shape. “You’ll want to make sure that your power takeoff and chains are shielded and that you have the SMV (slow-moving vehicle) emblem attached to your vehicles,” shared Coons.
One of the most important safety devices is a cell phone. While many farmers enjoy the solitude of working their fields, it’s reassuring to know that help is just a few buttons away, whether that’s for an emergency or a request for a helper.
Safety on local roads is another key issue during planting season. “People who aren’t involved with agriculture may not realize that planting has begun and that farmers will be traveling between fields,” notes Coons. “It’s also been several months since the harvest, so drivers may be startled to see farm equipment on the roads. That’s why operators have to be especially careful of passenger vehicles, giving them a wider berth and allowing for more reaction time. Taking steps to make your vehicles and other equipment more visible, such as adding extra lights or reflective tape, can also reduce the potential for accidents.”
SOURCES: Indiana Department of Labor, Pioneer Seed Company, Powerlinesafety.info, Purdue University Extension, Southeast Farm Press University of Illinois Extension.