Photo provided by the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH)
Unfortunately, many farmers use older equipment during the harvest season that does not have recommended safety features such as tractors without a rollover protective structure (ROPS). Always use a tractor equipped with a ROPS when possible. Keep your equipment in good condition and check to ensure all guards are properly positioned. Check to make sure that you have the recommended lighting on your tractor and implements especially when traveling in the early mornings or evenings.
Turn off the machine
Everyone is rushing to get that last field harvested and then the corn harvester gets plugged. Even though you are in a hurry to get done, you must always turn off the tractor before you get off the tractor to check or unclog any piece of equipment.
Rest and Breaks
During the harvest time, it is very easy for farm family members to not get adequate rest, take breaks, and even eat meals. In order for you to remain alert during harvest, you cannot sacrifice rest and nutrition. When doing fieldwork, take short breaks throughout the day to get out of the tractor to stretch. Stay hydrated and pack nutritious snacks or meals so that you have energy to complete the day's work.
When it is crunch time during harvest, a person may sometimes accept help from a neighbor, family member, or friend. However, it is important for you to provide that person with farm safety training related to the task that they will be helping with on the farm.
If you have youth (either your own, hired, or volunteers) working for you during the harvest season, evaluate the job they are doing to ensure they are not taking on more responsibility than they are mentally, cognitively, and physically able to accomplish. Always provide training for youth workers prior to doing any work and check in with them on regular intervals to check on their progress and safety.
Not all harvesting is done with tractors and combines. Some fall crops require hand harvesting and heavy lifting. Remember it is better to make multiple trips with lighter loads than to strain your body by lifting or carrying too much. When carrying an object, hold the object as close to your body as possible and lift with your knees rather than your back.
Do not ignore your health during the harvest season. As hard as it might be, try to get adequate sleep which will help you rejuvenate from a hard day and prepare you for the next busy day.
Accessing the Tractor
During chopping, a person can get on and off the tractor numerous times to hitch and unhitch wagons. Consider using a hitching system to reduce the number of time you need to get on and off the tractor. If it is unavoidable, maintain 3 points of contact when getting on or off the tractor and avoid jumping off of the tractor or tractor steps to improve your safety and to protect your joints over time.
Personal Protective Equipment
Use personal protective equipment such as ear plugs, gloves, and safety glasses when appropriate.
Traveling on Roadways
Check to make sure that you have the recommended lighting on your tractor and implements especially when traveling in the early mornings or evenings. When possible, avoid traveling on roadways during the busy morning and evening commute times. Use an escort vehicle when necessary.
Do your part to make this a safe and healthy harvest season!