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Five safety tips to put into action on your farm operation

Read Time: 3 minutes

By the Cargill Elevate team October 16, 2023

Fall is one of the busiest and most dangerous times of year for farmers. What are you doing to ensure safe farm practices this harvest?

Farm safety may seem like second nature but when it comes to the busy season, it's extremely easy to overlook some safety tactics. At harvest especially, the pressure to get the crop off and into bins or hauled into elevators can add pressure. The rush and business of the harvest season is a big reason why on-farm accidents happen more often at this time of year. Make sure to slow down and implement the following safety tips on your farm to ensure your safety and the safety of those who work with you:

1. Get into the habit of wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Wearing PPE while on your own operation for simple tasks doesn't always seem important but it can drastically cut down on SIFs (Serious Injuries and Fatalities).

  • Wear protective goggles and dust masks when in and around grain bins to protect your eyes and lungs from grain dust.
  • Wear grippy steel-toed boots to help you avoid foot injuries and slips around big machinery.
  • Wear high-visibility clothing if you have others working with you, especially at night and around farm equipment.
  • Invest in good earplugs to protect your hearing from loud noises and machinery over time.
  • Wear safety gloves as hand injuries are some of the most common on-farm injuries.

2. Practice grain bin safety

Flowing grain can easily trap someone in just a few short seconds. Unfortunately, despite knowledge and awareness around grain bin safety, these types of accidents still happen far too often. As a farmer, being in and around grain bins is unavoidable but you can help minimize the chances of an accident.

  • Use a harness when cleaning bins. As you enter from the top, tie off a harness outside the opening.
  • Aerate your bins first to remove toxic gas when opening silage storage.
  • Make sure that no equipment is operating around the site while you are in or on bins.
  • Assemble a team to support you in case of emergency, don't do it alone. Always make sure someone knows you'll be going into the bin.
  • Never enter a grain bin if grain is stuck to the sides or not flowing freely as it could seem stable and then collapse once you're inside.

3. Take precautions on roadways with large mobile-powered equipment

Large machinery does not move fast and takes up a lot of space. Not all drivers are cognizant of how to maneuver around large equipment.

  • Always be a defensive driver when driving large equipment.
  • Be aware of road conditions ahead of time in the case of volatile weather.
  • Avoid passing or pulling over too close to the ditch even if it means taking longer to get to your destination.
    • Tractor rollovers are the leading cause of fatalities in agriculture.        

4. Understand equipment safety

Equipment operates differently and machinery will vary from farm to farm.

  • Make sure you familiarize yourself with the equipment you are using.
  • Do regular maintenance checks to ensure everything is running as it should.
  • Remember to avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry and turn equipment off when not in use.
    • Getting pulled into machinery is an extremely high risk on farm.
  • Stock a first aid kit in all vehicles.

5. Take care of your mental health

You work hard to get your crop off the field while navigating obstacles along the way. There are inevitably break-downs you must deal with, you're hauling your grain while getting it off-field, and you're working quickly to avoid adverse weather conditions. The stress and lack of downtime can do a number on your mental health and stress can creep up on you before you know it. Make sure you're taking adequate breaks, getting proper sleep, and being gentle with yourself during this busy time. If you need to reach out for support you can contact the following:

  • Dial 211
    • Get referred and connected to the appropriate agency or community organization for your needs.
  • Farm Aid's Farmer Hotline
    • 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243) to talk to someone directly who can help you through a farming crisis.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • English: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
    • Spanish: 1-888-628-9454

Create an on-farm safety plan for your operation

Having a pre-established safety plan on farm that all family members and workers are aware of can help ensure everyone stays safe and can act fast in the case of emergency.

  • Highlight safety responsibilities per each role on farm.
  • Summarize general safety rules for equipment etc.
  • Create a safety checklist for everyone to go through regularly and initiate necessary safety training. Make sure everyone knows where all first aid stations are located.
  • Make sure any family that is present on farm or in your yard is aware of safety procedures.
  • Make sure everyone on farm knows that day's schedule.

The safety of you and those around you are the most important so, no matter how busy you are this fall, make sure you slow down and practice safety procedures in your day-to-day tasks.

Wishing you a safe and prosperous harvest season from your Cargill team.