LINCOLN, Neb. – As combines pop up in fields across the Midwest, the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association encourage farmers, as well as local residents and visitors, to take a second for safety in rural areas this harvest season. To help promote farm safety, “National Farm Safety and Health Week” kicked off September 16 and will run through September 22. This week-long farm safety promotion has taken place every year since 1944 and occurs during the third week of each September.
The theme for this year’s farm safety promotion is “cultivating the seeds of safety.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agricultural sector is one of the most dangerous industries in America. Over 2 million workers are 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 2016, there were 180 reported fatalities of agricultural workers, which equates to 21.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. While “National Farm Safety and Health Week” will help remind farmers, rural residents and visitors about the importance of farm safety for seven days, it’s also important for people to be cautious on or near farm operations throughout the year.
“All farmers are excited to gather their crops from their fields, but harvest can be a dangerous time, especially if we don’t practice safety,” said Dan Wesely, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and farmer from Morse Bluff, Nebraska. “There are a lot of moving parts during harvest – combines, tractors, grain carts, trucks, augers and people. It’s important everyone understands their individual responsibilities, remains alert and has an emergency action plan in place, in case something goes wrong.”
Farmers typically have a narrow window to complete their 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 productive farmer,” said Dave Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Friend, Nebraska. “It may seem counterproductive, but farmers should take short breaks during the harvest season. They’re often operating large equipment and working long hours throughout the day. By getting enough sleep and eating healthy meals, farmers will be alert and engaged during the harvest process.”
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, farm workers and rural residents to consider while on the farm this fall (adapted from the National Corn Growers Association):
- 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 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.
“All farmers are excited to see the fruits of their labor,” said Bruntz. “By taking a little extra time to exercise safe practices, we’ll continue to do our part to produce safe and abundant sources of food, fuel and fiber for the world.”
The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) is funded through a producer checkoff investment of ½-cent-per-bushel checkoff on all corn marketed in the state and is managed by nine farmer directors. The mission of the NCB is to promote the value of corn by creating opportunities.
The Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) is a grassroots commodity organization that works to enhance the profitability of corn producers. NeCGA has more than 2,500 dues-paying members in Nebraska. NeCGA is affiliated with the National Corn Growers Association, which has more than 40,000 dues-paying members nationwide.