Farmers across the Midwest are realizing the fruits of their labor as the harvest season begins. During this time, the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) encourage farmers, as well as residents and visitors, to take a second for safety in rural areas during this time.
The agricultural sector is one of the most dangerous industries in America according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are over 2 million workers employed full-time in production agriculture, which does not account for part-time help or family members who also live and work on farms. In 2019, there were 573 reported fatalities of agricultural workers, which equates to 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Accidents on the farm are not exclusive to the harvest season which means it is important to be mindful of safety precautions year-round in the agricultural industry.
“As farmers, we’re often at the mercy of Mother Nature when we’re harvesting our crops,” said Jay Reiners, chairman of NCB and farmer from Juniata. “When we have good conditions, we want to get as much done as possible which makes it easy to get in a hurry and neglect safety. However, we encourage farmers to take that extra second for safety because extra time and caution can really save lives.”
In addition to fluctuating weather and field conditions, machinery and additional worker availability may result in a narrow window to complete harvest work. Therefore, it’s important farmers take care of themselves to ensure a safe and productive season.
“A well-rested farmer is a safe and alert farmer,” said Andy Jobman, president of NeCGA and farmer from Gothenburg. “It may often seem like we, as farmers, have an overwhelming job ahead of us but with a little time and patience, we can harvest our 2021 crops successfully without injury or death.”
Farmers are not the only people who should be cautious during the harvest season. Anyone who may be visiting or traveling through rural areas should be mindful of increased farm traffic on roads and highways. Harvest equipment should be visible with front and rear warning lights, as well as slow-moving vehicle emblems, to notify motorists of approaching machinery. In rural areas, parents of small children should also develop safety rules to prevent youth from playing on or near harvest equipment.
Additional tips for farmers, farmworkers, and rural residents to consider while on the farm this fall:
- Be careful when approaching harvest equipment. Approach from the front and gain eye contact with the operator before approaching.
- Ensure the harvesting equipment is fully stopped and disengaged before climbing onto a vehicle.
- Do not place yourself near any unguarded or otherwise running machinery.
- Avoid pinch points between equipment – such as tractors with grain wagons. Visibility can be limited and serious injury can occur.
- Entanglement hazards can happen very quickly.
- Do not ever try to unplug any equipment without disengaging power and removing energy from the equipment.
- Never pull or try to remove plugged plants from an operating machine.
- Always keep shields in place to avoid snags and entanglement when working around equipment.
- Be careful climbing on and off equipment.
- Be alert and extremely careful when working in wet or slippery conditions.
- Keep all walkways and platforms open and free of tools, dust, debris, or other obstacles. Clean all walkways and platforms before use.
- Wear clothing that is well-fitting and not baggy or loose. Also wear proper non-slip, closed-toe shoes.
- Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery. Face machinery when dismounting and never jump from equipment.
- Never dismount from a moving vehicle.
- Carry a fire extinguisher with you in your vehicle (A-B-C, 5 or 10 pound).
- Remove dust and buildup from equipment. Check bearings regularly to prevent overheating and the chance of fire.
Grain Wagon Safety
- Be careful to monitor grain wagon weight to never exceed maximum weight limits. As weight increases, grain wagons can be more difficult to control.
- Load grain wagons evenly to distribute weight to prevent weaving or instability across the grain wagon.
- Inspect grain wagon tires and replace any worn or cracked tires.
Grain Bin Safety
- If entering a bin, wear a harness attached to a secure rope.
- Never work alone.
- Never allow children to get too close or inside the bin.
- Wear a dust filter or respirator when working in bins.
- Stay out of bins when equipment is running.
For more information on farm safety, visit the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety online at necasag.org.