Why is it we never think about safety until it is too late? Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. During 2016 in Pennsylvania alone, 27 people were killed in farm-related accidents. Maybe one of the worst statistics is that 4 of those 27 fatalities, 15%, were under the age of 19.
Many of the fatalities involved tractors, skid steers, or forklifts, and tractor overturns was a leading cause.
Now that I’ve shown you the statistics, what can you do? Well, the number one piece of safety equipment that can be used is the one that’s between your ears. Many accidents can be avoided if a little common sense is used. We all know not to try to operate a tractor from the ground or step over a running PTO shaft. So, why do it? Also use the safety equipment that comes with the tractor. A ROPS system can protect you from rollover, but only when you wear the seat belt!
Accidents involving the PTO also happen all too often. Some think that if a PTO shaft begins to grab them they can just pull away. Remember, a 540-rpm PTO shaft turns 9 times per second, and a 1,000-rpm shaft turns 16.6 times per second. Combine that with the horsepower of the engine turning it, and even Superman would have a hard time getting away. Keep PTO covers and guards in place; they do serve a purpose.
Part of farm life is children working on the farm with machinery, and these kids learn responsibility and work ethics. However, before you let your kids on machinery make sure they know how to operate it properly. Start them off slow with small, simple tasks. Also, remember that they learn by watching you. How safe are you? As I visit farms I often hear of near misses from accidents, and too often perhaps we wear that near miss as a badge of honor. As has been often quoted, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The use of some personal protection can go a long way in protection against accidents and long term exposure problems. The most common protection areas are the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and skin. The two areas we don't protect enough are the ears and skin. Long term exposure to tractor and machinery noise can cause significant hearing loss. Many say if they wear ear plugs they can’t tell if the equipment is operating properly. Well, after 30 years of careful listening you may have a problem hearing anything at all. Skin cancer is another concern with long exposure to the sun. Simply using sunscreen and wearing a hat during the summer can significantly reduce your exposure and chances of skin problems later on.
Common hazards around the farm include animals, silos, grain bins, manure storage, farm ponds, pesticides, electrical equipment, and many more. So, what can you do to avoid accidents around the farm? Once again, common sense is your best defense: think before you act. To protect children, things like manure storage and ponds should be fenced, pesticides should be out of reach, and small children should be kept away from running equipment.
If nothing else, I ask that you use some common sense and think before you act during this fall's harvest. We don’t need to lose any more farmers or future farmers to accidents.