If you’re a farmer or rancher, you know yours is a risky occupation. But even with hazards at every turn, you also know that an ounce of prevention can be all you need to keep those risks from becoming realities.
Nonfatal injuries happen to about one-third of all farm workers every year. And while safety measures should be followed at all times, taking one day out of the year to remind everyone in your farm or ranch operation of the proper safety procedures can make a big difference in preventing injury at your business. In the following sections, we’re offering a list of important safety checks to make throughout the year.
Walk through your farm making a list of equipment that is in need of repair. Keep an eye out for loose platforms, handrails or other obstructed pathways, and once you’ve completed your list begin tackling repairs immediately.
Make sure there’s a safety protocol in place for checking all electrical components throughout the farm, including buildings, equipment, individual connections, wiring and breaker boxes.
Farm Safety During Harvest and Planting Season
Farm accidents are typically most frequent in June, July and August, and accidents in rural environments can be even more dangerous due to the time it can take for an injured person to reach a hospital. It’s more important than ever to take extra precautions as you go through planting and harvesting season.
One of the most important farm safety steps you can take is to ensure that all safety features on your equipment are working properly before you begin work. Always use protective equipment like seat belts, gloves, goggles and face shields.
Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can accumulate in unventilated grain silos and manure pits and cause serious injury. Do your best to avoid these accidents by informing your farm or ranch hands about the risks associated with different tasks.
Grain Silos: Storage Safety
When proper safety rules are followed, working in grain bins becomes just an everyday part of farm life. Always enter with a rope and safety harness and with at least two other people. This way, if something unforeseen happens, help is available.
Grain growers have distinct needs, which is why we offer a commercial agriculture insurance for your grain operation. We designed our policies to provide home, farm property and farm liability coverage, with the option to customize it to fit your needs. Whether you’re a large or small operation, our farm insurance eliminates the need to carry multiple policies with different companies.
As you’re getting ready for the season, do a thorough inspection of your grain bins and close the season with a post-inspection. Check the walls, roof and foundation for any issues. Make sure all fans and conveyors are working properly. Verify signage is visible. Remove any objects that clutter walkways and could lead to trip and fall injuries. Discuss the importance of cleaning up spilled grain and grain dust with your employees. The Grain Handling Safety Coalition has a page dedicated to resources for farmers to use with employees.
The CDC states that every day, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury, but simple safety advancements like machine guarding have gone a long way in keeping you and your workers safe. Installing the proper machine guarding, along with regular equipment maintenance, reduces the likelihood of accidents for the operators and keeps flying debris away from other workers in the area. Machine guards double as a way to increase your space by reducing the hazard area for the machine, and it keeps cleanup contained to a smaller area.
Be sure to install Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) on your tractors. According to the CDC, tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers. This piece of safety equipment is the best way to prevent tractor overturn. Also, ensure that all equipment is shut off before exiting the cab, and only allow riders on equipment that has a buddy seat and seat belt installed.
When dealing with PTO systems, make sure the safety cover is always in place, even when not in use. Loose clothing should be avoided, and always walk around tractors and machinery as opposed to stepping over a rotating shaft.
Farm Safety on the Road
During a farmer or rancher’s busiest time of the year, it’s common to need to take large equipment out on the road – and sometimes a busy highway. The National Safety Council estimates that 15,000 collisions involving farm vehicles occur on U.S. roadways each year. When operating farm equipment on the roads, follow these steps to make sure you’re driving safely.
Display the Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) symbol on your equipment.
Use emblems that are in good condition and securely attached. This symbol alerts other drivers of the equipment’s slow speed and low maneuverability, but it doesn’t help if other drivers can’t see it. Display the symbol as high and to the left, and keep the sign clean so that it is effective.
Use flashers anytime you are on public roads.
Make sure your equipment follows the lighting recommendations from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE):
Be cautious of old bridges.
Before crossing a bridge, make sure your vehicle weight will not damage the bridge or cause it to collapse. Allow oncoming traffic to pass the bridge before crossing, as rural bridges are often very narrow. This will reduce the weight on the bridge at one time and gives everyone more space.
Beware of Severe Weather
You know all too well that Mother Nature is unpredictable. During the summer months, your farm or ranch operation will likely face severe weather at some point. Here are some tips to help you keep you safe during storm season.
Know the warning signs of tornadoes.
Many farmers are familiar with the dark, often greenish sky that warns of dangerous weather. Large hail with no rain or a sudden drop in the wind can also be signs that a tornado is possible. If your employees see signs of threatening weather, make sure they know the procedure for getting to safety, no matter where they are at the time.
In the case of a tornado, leave your vehicle or tractor.
It may seem safer, but in fact, you should leave your vehicle. Find a low-lying area, such as a ditch, and cover your head with your arms to protect yourself from flying debris.
Have a plan for your livestock in case of flooding.
Have an evacuation plan in place for your livestock, should you need to move them to higher ground.
Develop and maintain a list of all people connected with your farm.
There are many people to be notified if there is an emergency. Create a list containing the contact information for family members, employees, employee family members, suppliers and anyone else who is regularly tied to the production of your farm or ranch.
For more information and videos on ag safety, visit the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Agricultural Safety Awareness Program page.
Costs Associated with Farm Accidents
According to the National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD), about 19 percent of the farm population loses work-time each year from being involved in farm accidents. Aside from the cost associated with medical care for the actual injury, all too often these accidents result in missed work, which adds another cost to the accident.
Although there isn’t an exact number for the economic cost of farm accidents, the NASD states that hospitalization and medical treatment accounts for nearly a fourth of the total cost of the operation. Immediately reduce your risk by scheduling all your equipment maintenance. The upfront cost could equate to a two-fold return on investment, not to mention avoiding the pain and hassle of injury.
Learn more about how farm insurance coverage from Farm Bureau can protect what matters most when the unexpected strikes.