Amy Rademaker, Carle Center for Rural and Farm Safety, shares eight ways to stay safe during harvest season.
Harvest time is filled with long hours, field dinners and memories. It’s also one of the most dangerous times on the farm, says Amy Rademaker, Carle Center for Rural and Farm Safety.
“There are more crashes, fatalities and injuries in October and November compared to any other month,” Rademaker notes. “All it takes is that one time.”
Farm-related accidents claimed 10 Illinois lives in 2016, including seven vehicle collisions with sprayers, tractors or grain trucks. There are ways to stay safe this fall, Rademaker says, and it starts with taking an extra moment to think before you act.
Here are Rademaker’s fall safety tips for on and off the roadway.
- Do a safety check. Check to make sure everything, not just the lights, is clean and working before taking equipment on the road. Walk around the equipment and make sure all of the markings are clearly visible.
- Share the road. Equipment should occupy only one lane when traveling from field to field. “Never drive down the road with combine heads,” Rademaker notes. “Use your transport trailers for the heads.”
- Use good road manners. Cars or trucks traveling 50 to 60 miles per hour need at least 1,000 feet to stop. “That’s two football fields,” Rademaker adds. That’s why farm equipment traveling on roadways needs an escort vehicle if visibility is less than 1,000 feet. Be courteous on the road, she adds, but don’t make decisions for other drivers. “Never wave someone around you; let the driver make that call,” she says.
- Resist ride-alongs. It’s hard to resist sharing harvest with your loved ones, but Rademaker advises against extra tractor and combine riders. “The cab is not a crutch,” Rademaker says. “Windshields can shatter.” The extra seat in the combine? It’s not a buddy seat. It’s an instructor’s seat that shouldn’t be used for car seats, she adds. Why? Combine fires can escalate quickly. A farmer may not have time to unbuckle the child and climb down the ladder safely. Car seats and children may not be safe on the cab floor, either. “What if you hit a bump or rock?” Rademaker asks. “The seal is not fool-proof.”
- Use caution with grain bins. Never get into a grain bin while it’s running, Rademaker says, and use a full life-line system when you do enter a bin. Falling from grain bins is statistically more common than entrapment. Use three points of contact at all times while climbing grain bin ladders.
- Set a good example. Never cross over a PTO, even when the guard is in place — or when it’s off, Rademaker notes. “What if your 5-year-old watches you cross it?” she asks. “Will they understand it’s off?”
- Never rely on hydraulics. Always use a backup for hydraulics during repairs, and never crawl under a corn head without a secondary reinforcement.
- Establish boundaries. Harvest is an exciting time for everyone, especially children. It’s also a busy time, and adults may be easily distracted. “There needs to be a dedicated space for watching,” Rademaker advises. “It’s not worth it the one time something goes wrong.”