Farming is often a solo job. When you're out on the farm and don’t have a relative or farm hand with you, it’s important to have safety procedures in place to help you avoid injury on your farm or ranch. Whether you are in the field, the shop or working with livestock, be sure to keep this farm safety checklist in mind the next time you are working alone.
In the digital age of cell phones, it can feel like you are connected 24/7, but it’s easy to forget your device when heading out for the day. Be sure to take a moment to grab your phone and put it in a secure pocket for easy retrieval. Be sure that your phone is fully charged and ready for use and has emergency numbers stored as contacts. It’s a good idea to label your contacts clearly (such as wife, doctor, neighbor, etc.). If someone else has to use your phone in case of emergency, they will have an easy time finding the appropriate person to reach.
Add this quick but crucial task to your farm safety checklist: Notify someone where on the property you plan to be working and make a point to stay connected throughout the day. If your spouse expects you to check in at lunchtime every day, they will know something is up if you don’t follow your normal routine and check in. Establishing a routine is an easy way to stay connected and provide a regular interval for contact – and a signal for them to find you if you fail to call.
If you’ve been farming long, you know the importance of having a first aid kit (complete with bandages, cold compresses and sterile gauze) on hand in your truck or farm equipment. What you may not think about is the importance of self-care for minor wounds. From burns to deep cuts, it’s important to know the basics of treating your own wounds when you are working alone until you are able to see a medical professional. Look for courses that teach first aid basics. Also, keep emergency supplies such as adequate drinking water on hand when you are out alone.
When working alone, never get into a pen or trailer with your animals. Livestock can be unpredictable when they are startled or feel caged in and can charge or kick. Don’t be caught without assistance nearby that can help in case an animal panics and turns on you. Always leave yourself an out when working in close quarters with farm animals.
Another task for your farm safety checklist is to make sure your machines have guards and working kill-switches. You know the dangers of working around belts and augers, but it’s easy to ignore safety rules if there aren’t safeguards in place. Also, be sure to turn off any farm equipment before performing maintenance. It sounds like a no-brainer, but we all know people who have ignored this advice and lost a finger or a limb – doing something that was completely preventable.
Dress for Success
Make sure you wear clothing suited to working safely in the heat. You want to wear something moisture wicking to keep you dry and cool and prevent sun damage through the summer months. Make sure clothing doesn’t fit too loosely or have frayed edges that could get caught in augers or mills. Clothing that is too loose can be a catch hazard.
Prepare for the Job at Hand
Keep the proper personal protective equipment or safety gear on hand if you are working with chemicals, dust or welding. If you are working with chemicals, keep safety glasses and a separate pair of gloves within arm’s reach to avoid getting chemicals on exposed skin or in your eyes. Use a dust mask whenever possible, especially while disking or harvesting. If you know you will be welding, keep welding gloves, a mask and burn resistant clothing nearby.
Mind the Weather
When working alone, make sure that you keep an eye on the weather. When clouds roll in or the wind picks up, tune into a weather radio to know what is happening in your area. Don’t take chances with machinery – bring equipment in and find shelter for yourself in a safe place. Create an emergency preparedness plan that will get you to safety.
Know Your Limits
Worker fatigue increases the risk of injury due to decreased alertness, a tendency to rush or take shortcuts to complete the work, or by not responding to changes in your surroundings. Consider moving safety-sensitive work to early in the day, take breaks, and know when to end your workday when you are feeling excessively fatigued.
Also, if possible, leave higher risk tasks such as working on electrical components or in confined spaces to a time when a second person is available to assist you.
Safety should always be your first priority, but it’s even more important when working alone on your farm or ranch. Have questions? Farm Bureau has Loss Control Specialists that are here to assist. They can do a risk assessment on your operation and share helpful tips for mitigating the risk on your farm, and help you implement safety procedures. Your safety is everybody’s business.