According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, farming is the fourth most dangerous job in the United States.
Farmers know risks can come from all parts of their operation; machinery, livestock, and the day-to-day labor on a farm all pose an inherent risk. What’s always true: Working on a farm demands constant care and caution.
Below are some easy guidelines to follow that could reduce the likelihood of damage or injury and help make your farm a safer place for your family and employees.
Tractors And Farm Machinery
The majority of all farm accidents involve tractors or machinery. Here are some ways you can minimize the chances of an accident:
- Install a Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS) on all tractors. New tractors manufactured in the US are required to utilize a ROPS, but many older tractors are operated without one. Nearly half of all tractor fatalities are caused by rollovers, and a ROPS, combined with a seat belt or harness, is nearly 100% effective in preventing fatalities to the operator.
- Never modify or alter an ROPS. If you do have a rollover, immediately replace your ROPS.
- Have all operators complete a tractor safety course.
- Inspect and maintain all machinery, equipment, and tools to keep them in proper working condition.
- Make sure all equipment has properly working lights. Slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs are required on all equipment that travels at speeds less than 25 mph on public roads.
- Do not allow children to ride on tractors.
- Make sure all power take-offs, belts, and augers have proper guards and shields.
- Turn off power before adjusting, servicing, or unclogging power-driven machinery.
- Make sure loads being towed are properly hitched to the drawbar and that pins and chains are in place.
- Make sure tires are properly inflated.
Chemicals And Other Hazards
Exposure to hazardous chemicals can lead to serious health consequences. Always note the manufacturer’s warnings on the chemical’s packaging and follow the guidelines below:
- Read and follow the manufacturer's directions for storage, handling, and application of chemicals. Contact your county extension agent for additional information or training on chemical handling. Most states require applicator training in order to apply chemicals.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, eye/face shields, earplugs, respiratory protection and hats.
- When entering pits in hog barns, always wear a respirator to avoid being overcome by the fumes. Never enter alone. Have at least two other people with you, and always wear a harness.
- Have first-aid kits available, and develop an emergency plan in case of chemical exposure.
In addition to danger from chemicals, farmers have to worry about damage to their hearing from noisy equipment. Studies show that more than 50 percent of older farmers have hearing loss. Make sure to wear proper hearing protection.
Farm theft is a rising problem in the United States. Due to the rising cost of metals, for example, copper wiring has become a desirable commodity for thieves in rural areas. Ammonia tanks – because of that chemical’s utility in the manufacture of methamphetamines – have become targets. Take these steps to secure your property:
- Maintain adequate lighting around the farmyard and in the home.
- Have single cylinder deadbolt locks on all entrance doors to your home. Keep farm buildings locked.
- Record serial numbers of all equipment. Mark equipment and livestock to aid in recovery should a theft occur.
- Ask neighbors to check the farm regularly when you are away.
- Inspect and maintain fences used for livestock.
Farms have a large amount of property and many structures, each with their own particular dangers.
- Have an electrician verify that all electrical systems and equipment are properly grounded. This can help reduce the chance of shocks and/or production losses to livestock.
- Install moisture-proof wiring, fixtures and boxes in hog and dairy barns. This will help prevent your wires from deteriorating and becoming a hazard.
- Be sure grain bins have permanent ladders inside and out. Use a lifeline when entering a bin or silo, always have at least two other people present, and wear a protective mask.
- Do not use extension cords as permanent hookups.
Not only can a farm fire undercut your livelihood, but it can also put you and your family’s lives at risk.
- Maintain smoke detectors throughout your home, and check that batteries are working. (Change the batteries at least every 6 months.)
- Place approved fire extinguishers in your home, on large tractors and combines, and in barns, shops, and machine sheds. Check and tag the extinguishers annually.
- Develop an evacuation plan for family members, including a meeting place.
- Have a licensed electrician periodically inspect your electrical systems. Be sure updates to your current electrical systems are performed by a qualified electrician.
- Consider installing a lightning protection system. Consult a UL or LPI (Lightning Protection Institute) approved contractor.
- Practice good maintenance of your farm or ranch. Cut weeds and grass around buildings, maintain a clean shop, and store all chemicals and flammable liquids properly.
- Don't burn trash outdoors on windy days. Don't ever leave fires unattended.
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