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Fall is almost here and it’s harvest time for America’s farmers. Those who do not live and work in rural areas may imagine farming to be a physically demanding, but relatively safe occupation. In fact, agriculture is one of the most hazardous jobs you can have. Statistically, farming is two times as deadly as serving in law enforcement, and five times more deadly than serving as a firefighter.

Out of the more than 4 million people who work in farming either full or part-time, approximately 100 agricultural workers are injured daily. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), estimates a fatality rate of 20.4 deaths per 100,000 farm workers annually.

 The most common causes of farming accidents and injuries include overturning tractors and accidents with agricultural machinery, falls, exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides, suffocation (in grain silos and bins) and animal-related incidents.

During the harvest, there is a lot to achieve in a short time so advanced preparation goes a long way to avoiding accidents and mitigating hazards. Some safety rules to live by before the harvest include maintaining the equipment and work areas, training those who will be using the equipment, reading equipment manuals to refresh your familiarity with the machinery, developing an emergency plan for accidents and communicating clearly with family members, especially children, about staying a safe distance from hazards.

Tips for staying safe during the harvest

EQUIPMENT SAFETY

  • Make sure equipment is completely powered off before attempting to make any repairs.
  • Do not wear jewelry or baggy clothing near moving equipment.
  • Use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – safety glasses and hearing protection.
  • Don’t leave running equipment unattended.
  • Take time to tie down cargo loads.
  • Make sure all lights work before taking equipment on the road.  Make sure headlights and taillights are clean.
  • Drive at reasonable speeds on the road that ensure you stay in control.
  • Stop using heavy machinery when you are fatigued

GRAIN BIN SAFETY

  • Keep children out of grain bins, beds, wand wagons.
  • Lock out the control circuit before entering a bin, whether or not grain is flowing.
  • Don’t count on someone outside the bin to hear your shouted instructions.
  • If you become trapped in a bin of flowing grain with nothing to hold onto, but you are still able to walk, stay near the outside wall. Keep walking until the bin is empty or grain flow stops. If you are covered by flowing grain, cup your hands over your mouth, and take short breaths until help arrives.
  • If someone becomes submerged in grain, assume they are alive, and begin rescue operations immediately. Turn on the fan to move air into the bin. Cut large holes around the bin, approximately 5-feet up from the base, to empty grain. (If you cut too many holes, the bin may collapse.) Use the front-end loader of a tractor, an abrasive saw or an air chisel. A cutting torch is a last resort – it could cause a fire or an explosion from dust and fumigant residue.
  • Never attempt a rescue by going into the grain yourself. Call 911. Your local emergency team has the training and equipment to do the job safely.