With combines and grain carts heading to the fields, the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) are urging farmers, residents, and drivers to take a second for safety this harvest season to protect what matters – everyone getting home safe.
Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries to work in, with farmers at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. Farming is also one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) have the same risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, there were a reported 368 farmers and farm worker fatalities from agricultural workers. Transportation incidents, which include tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers
“As farmers, we’re excited to harvest as soon as the conditions are good,” said Jay Reiners, chairman of NCB and farmer from Juniata. “We want to get as much done as possible when the weather is right which makes it easy to get in a hurry. However, we encourage farmers to take that extra second for safety because extra time and caution can really save lives.”
With factors like fluctuating weather, field conditions, and machinery availability, 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.
“The harvest season is a busy time and there are a lot of moving parts,” said Andy Jobman, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and farmer from Gothenburg. “While farmers are ready to get in the fields and harvest their crops, we need to remember that agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations. By being prepared and taking a few extra seconds for safety, we can ensure a safe and successful harvest.”
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.