Spring Planting Requires Increased Focus On Safety

Working fast to get crops in to beat incoming weather is just one instance in which farmers increase their risk of injury, a safety expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences says.

Knowing some simple safety precautions to take during spring planting is critical for farmers to reduce the potential for injuries, said Kent McGuire, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural health and safety professional. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

Spring planting is a time when farm workers are continually moving from one piece of equipment to another and climbing on equipment to fill with seed or make repairs, McGuire said. This is a time that farmers should take extra precautions to prevent falls when working around farm equipment, he said.

“During spring planting, there is a sense of urgency to get corn and soybeans planted,” McGuire said. “Farmers put in long hours, day after day. That’s when fatigue or complacency sets in, and a slip, trip or fall injury can happen very quickly.

“It’s real easy to get out of the tractor after several hours and not pay attention to that last step or the uneven ground conditions that can cause a fall injury.”

There were 19,700 reported injuries and illnesses among those working in crop production in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And reported injuries and illnesses among those working in livestock production numbered 12,300 that same year, the federal agency said.

In a statement, the agency said the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector was one of only two private industry sectors to see an increase in the rate of injuries and illnesses in 2011. The increase was led by injuries in crop production and animal agriculture, primarily dairy cattle and milk production.

Most equipment-related accidents on the farm are due to farm tractor rollovers, according to the Farm Injury Resource Center. The center said other equipment-related farm injuries include: being caught in running machinery; highway collisions between farm equipment and other vehicles; being struck by falling machinery parts; and equipment contacting overhead or underground power lines.

Slips, trips and falls from farm equipment are also a concern, McGuire said. And those can be prevented if farmers take precautions, he said.

“When a self-employed farmer gets injured, especially during this time of year, it can be devastating to the farm operation from a business and financial standpoint,” McGuire said. “In a lot of cases, self-employed farmers wear many hats. They are the farm manager, equipment operator and repair mechanic.

“By being involved in all of the aspects of the farm, it can be devastating when they get injured.” said McGuire. “With that in mind, farmers should take a few seconds to think about that next step, to prevent that serious injury from a fall that could lay them up for the rest of spring planting season.”

Precautions in preventing falls from equipment should include:

  • Observe the basic safety rules of the equipment’s operating manual.
  • Shut off equipment and make sure equipment is in “park” before dismounting.
  • Maintain three points of contact when mounting or dismounting equipment. This means keeping one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot in contact with the equipment or ground at all times.
  • Ensure that steps, hand holds, platforms and railings are in safe operating condition.
  • Clean dirt, mud and debris from work platforms and decks of equipment before entering these areas.
  • Face toward the equipment when mounting or dismounting equipment with ladder-style steps.
  • Avoid trying to carry objects when mounting or dismounting equipment.
  • Exercise caution when steps are wet or dirty.
  • Avoid jumping off the last step.
  • Anticipate changes in ground elevation or rough terrain when dismounting from the last step.
  • Be alert and focus on foot placement when walking, especially during early morning or evening when daylight is limited.
  • Avoid distractions or hurrying when walking from one piece of equipment to another. Be observant to any slip, trip or fall hazards in your line of travel.
  • Ensure that equipment or the work area has adequate lighting to complete the task in low light conditions.
  • Use a ladder or elevated platform to work on those hard-to-reach places rather than trying to stand on the equipment in an awkward position.

For more information on agricultural safety issues, contact McGuire at 614-292-0588 or mcguire.225@osu.edu.

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