As the days get shorter, it means only one thing for farmers: harvest is here. Harvest is a farmer’s busiest time of the year and unfortunately one of the most dangerous, as it comes with the added pressure and stress to get this year’s crop in the bin. Fatigue and stress can lead farmers to take shortcuts which can lead to unsafe practices. To combat this, farmers should remember that it’s important to always take breaks, slow down, follow safe practices and ensure everyone on the farm is trained to do the task at hand.
Training workers and family on the farm
What exactly does it mean to train those on the farm and how time consuming is this? Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated and onerous. Being proactive and preparing workers and family members for harvest may actually save you time and many potential hardships.
As a farmer, take a moment and ask yourself: what measures have you taken to ensure the safety and health of those working on your farm? Are there additional steps you can take to make your workplace even safer?
Some examples that you may want to consider are to take the steps to create a “safety first” approach with your workers and family members. Let them know that no matter how hectic the situation is, we all must have safety top-of-mind and take the appropriate time to ensure all tasks are being carried out in a safe manner. Having someone rush through a job or take unsafe shortcuts to get the job done faster could result in catastrophic consequence including serious injury that can be devastating on many levels.
Bring new workers onto the farm ahead of time and work through an orientation. Not only will workers learn your expectations towards safety and health, they will also be better prepared and familiar with your farm. Be sure to take the time to train workers and family members on tasks they are expected to perform during the harvest season. Some tasks may seem simple to an experienced worker, but for those starting a new job, the hazards may not be clear or understood.
Safety practices for a safer farm
When working through the harvest season, there are multiple safety practices farmers can take to ensure everyone gets home safe at the end of the day.
- Before moving machinery, operators should be trained to perform a walk-around check to ensure no one is near the equipment and warn anyone in the immediate area that the machinery will be moving.
- Keep bystanders away from high traffic areas in the farmyard.
- Stay alert and take breaks when working long hours. Getting out of the cab, taking meal breaks and rotating jobs every few hours will help stretch muscles and keep you alert.
- Do not allow extra riders on equipment. One seat, one rider!
- Ensure farmyards and off-farm sites have adequate lighting.
- Before unclogging a plugged feeder on a combine, ensure the engine is turned off.
- Before moving any piece of equipment on roads or fields, be aware of power lines and ensure everyone on the farm knows where these are located.
- When working alone, let someone know where you are working and have scheduled check-in times. Always carry a means of communication, such as a cell phone or two-way radio.
- To help avoid getting entangled in farm equipment, particularly power take-offs (PTOs) and augers, train workers on the hazards of this equipment and ensure they are practicing safety habits, such as wearing tight-fitting clothing and walking around PTOs, not over.
- Be seen! Wear high visibility gear when working in high traffic areas and in fields during harvest
Planning and preparing for emergencies
Emergencies can happen on the farm, but planning and preparing for emergencies can save lives and prevent losses and damages to your farm. Always ask yourself, what kinds of things can I do to help my farm prepare for these situations?
Remember, emergencies can happen anywhere on the farm including offsite yards and fields. Ensure everyone knows the legal land descriptions to these work areas in case of an emergency situation.You will also want to have proper resources and tools in place for emergency situations.
EMS response to rural areas may take time, so ensure that there is always somebody present on the farm trained and certified in first aid. Having stocked first aid kits and charged fire extinguisher are resources that should be maintained and accessible. Also, ensure that emergency telephone numbers are posted at every phone. The last thing someone needs to worry about in the case of an emergency is locating the number for help.
Everyone on the farm has a role to play when it comes to safety and health during the harvest season. By taking the time to prepare and ensuring everyone is following safe practices and behaviors will result in workers and family members getting home safely at the end of each working day.
Wishing you a happy and safe harvest!
This is a guest post from Jeff Shaw, SAFE Work Manitoba Prevention Consultant – Agriculture.
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