Farm safety a priority

Monday, August 30, 2010

Harvest season is fast approaching.

Soon the fall days will be filled with farming tasks, including making hay, tending to animals, harvesting fields and farmstead maintenance.

Many of these jobs are completed with machines ranging from large combines to small tractors equipped with a small bush hog.

Because of busy schedules, part-time help and the large number of rural lifestyle farmsteads, the need for following safe operating procedures is more important than ever to minimize accidents in rural areas.

The 2009 Purdue Indiana Farm Fatality Summary is a sobering reminder that failure to operate machinery safely can be costly -- the report documents 20 fatalities in Indiana farms in 2009, with tractors involved in half of the fatalities.

Commercial farms have updated equipment and provide safety training to persons operating said equipment. In moving from commercial to lifestyle farms, the machinery operator may face more challenges in avoiding accidents.

Fatigue, stress and unfamiliarity with the range of capability of the machine can challenge a person who has already put in a day's work off-farm.

Many farm accidents can have fatigue as a factor. Making sure the operator is rested and not in a hurry is important to minimize accidents with equipment. Some situations will lend themselves to a higher chance for an accident: A tired operator who is in a hurry mowing an unfamiliar embankment with a tractor not properly equipped with roll over bar and seat belt is an accident waiting to happen.

Purdue Extension offers a few suggestions to help rural equipment operators minimize exposure to farming accidents.

* Make sure the equipment has proper shields for power takeoffs and is operated without haste.

* Make sure any equipment operators have good site awareness: Know where the equipment can be operated safely and avoid unsafe situations.

I personally weed eat an embankment in lieu of mowing with the tractor because of the steep grade.

* Also, don't try to use equipment for tasks not intended for the machine. I have worked with clients who were seriously injured while operating equipment in inappropriate situations which called for a different machine.

Safety is a habit, and safe machine operations start with each operator making sure safety equipment is in place. Making sure that your equipment is in good working order and having equipment routinely serviced can lessen the chance for accidents to happen and potentially save lives.

We want to keep everyone healthy and happy for the harvest season. For more information, feel free to Ann Delchambre at 653-8411 or e-mail adelchambre@purdue.edu.

This article was modified from the original written by Jim Luzar. The complete 2009 Purdue Farm Fatality Summary can be found online at www.farmsafety.org.