Spring Planting Safety Tips

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Farmers are starting the busy planting season as the soil both warms up and dries out.  Spring is a hectic time as farmers try to plant their crops quickly to optimize crop yields.  However, planting season can be dangerous, for both farmers, their spouse, and children, hired hands, and non-farm people.  Agriculture is a dangerous profession, averaging 100 injuries per day and around 410 deaths per year (2019) or 19.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.  Let’s try to make this a safe year.

Let’s start with the children.  Farm children, grand kids, and even city kids love to be on the farm, and they are fascinated by tractors, wagons, sprayers, fertilizer equipment, you name it.  Children do not realize the danger this equipment can pose.  Take some time and educate them if they visit.  Children need adult supervision and need to stay a distance away.  Most children love to ride on the tractor and that can be quite dangerous. Children riding on a fender and not buckled up can easily fall off and get seriously injured.  Even in a cab, children can be distracting and might cause an accident, so be careful and extra vigilant.  Keep children away from moving belts, chains, power take off (PTO), and wheels.  Make sure all your shields are in place.  When moving equipment, if children are present, walk around the equipment before moving it and make sure an adult is present to keep kids safe. 

Second, teenagers seem to be the next category of concern.  Every year in the USA, 113 children less than 20 years old die on the farm.  Not quite adults but old enough to help out, sometimes their judgement is not the best.  Take time to teach them right, and make sure they know how to operate equipment correctly. Teaching a town or city kid how to be safe on the farm takes time, but farm kids also need some guidance.  Accidents generally happen in split seconds, so there is not much time to act.  It’s not only lives that can be lost, but fingers, hands, arms, feet, legs and broken bones.

One of the biggest problems with modern farm equipment is the transportation.  Farm equipment is big, heavy, and often quite wide and long, so it’s slow and difficult to see.  Farmers must watch out for mailboxes, telephone poles, ditches, and traffic. People are always in a hurry so it is easy for accidents to occur on the road.  As farmers, make sure you have proper lighting, reflectors, slow moving vehicle signs, and mirrors in place so non-farm people can easily see you and you can see them.  Flashing lights help, especially at night.  Try to keep your equipment on your side of the road.  For non-farm people, slow down when approaching farm equipment.  Often farmers cannot see you as easily as you can see them. 

Once a farmer pulls into a field with his equipment, the danger is not over.  Look for potholes or sink holes from broken down tile lines, branches, telephone poles, trees, large rocks, even guide wires.  Usually, it’s a good idea to check out the field at least a day or two early or a couple hours before planting.  Even dead animals, especially deer can cause equipment damage or even human damage.  On hilly ground or muddy ground, watch out for slipping and sliding or the hazard of rolling over the tractor or equipment.  Slow down on the ends and on rough ground.  Heavy vegetation, ditches, and even eroded soil can be a hazard.

Many accidents occur with the tractor, from rollovers to simply getting on and off the machine.  Use the handrails and avoid injury to your body.  If possible, strap yourself in.  Put the tractor in park when dismounting to inspect machinery.  Turn off PTO’s to avoid entanglement.  A classmate of mine, who was 6’ 3 inches tall and weighed 250 pounds with loose clothing, got wrapped up in a PTO (power take off) and went around 3 times before it tore off his clothes.  He was lucky to be alive, but he was bruised and battered for several weeks.  Most people will not survive that type of treatment.  Tractors that operate for long periods of time can get really hot.  Be careful when refueling because it’s easy to spill fuel and start a fire. 

Farmers work long hours and get tired.  Take some breaks, get some food and water, and even take a quick nap or let someone else do the work for a short time. Farmers are human and they get fatigued, so take precautions to stay alert.  Be safe this year!

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