Take steps to stay safe this harvest


Farm injuries increase by 50 percent during harvest due to working longer hours, dealing with equipment breakdowns and handling weather-related issues.

According to USDA, Illinois farmers started on corn harvest last week. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)
According to USDA, Illinois farmers started on corn harvest last week. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

During the fall harvest season, farmers spend countless hours in combines, tractors, trucks and other equipment. They also transport large equipment on our roads and highways. 

“Some workers may be young, new or inexperienced, so it’s always a good suggestion to go over safety considerations with all workers to teach or reinforce the importance of safety on the farm,” said Dan Schlipmann, Illinois Farm Bureau field support manager.

Agriculture ranks among the nation’s most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. And farming is one of the few industries in which family members, who often share the work and live on the farm, are also at risk.

This time of year poses the highest risk of injury for farmers who experience fatigue and stress, under pressure to spend as much time as they can in the fields.

Related: Conduct monthly checks to keep your farm safe. Click here.

According to Robert Aherin, Ph.D., professor and ag safety and health program leader at the University of Illinois, sleep deprivation is a big problem, especially during harvest. 

Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re really tired, he advises shutting down for a few minutes and taking a nap. A 20-minute break with a short nap can really help improve alertness. A short walk every hour might do the same.

Aherin also advises farmers traveling narrow, winding or hilly roads between fields to consider using escort vehicles, especially if the equipment is obstructing the second lane on a two-lane road.

Injuries actually increase by 50 percent during harvest. Not only are hours long and the workload heavy, but farmers also have to deal with equipment breakdowns and weather-related issues. Staying safe during harvest is challenging. Contact with machinery presents the biggest risk for both injuries and fatalities, but there are ways to avoid them and stay sharp. Consider these tips:

- Inspect all machinery before beginning and have repair tools at the ready.

- Eat balanced meals.

- Stay hydrated to maintain awareness.

- Keep your phone on you, not on a dashboard.

- Keep SMV emblems and other markings maintained and clean of dirt and mud, so they can be seen.

- Replace faded reflectors. They fade faster if stored outdoors and constantly exposed to sunlight.

- Make sure everyone operating equipment is well trained.

- Keep extra riders off equipment.

Using good, common safety sense on the road and in the field will keep everyone safer during harvest. 

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.
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