OREGON, Ill. — National Farm Safety and Health Week September 16 to 22, 2018 is a special week set aside near the beginning of harvest to put a special focus on preventing farm injuries, which are the highest during harvest. This year’s theme is “Creating the Seeds of Safety.” The theme focuses on the importance of knowing and appreciating the injury risk and being able to effectively reduce the risk particularly for high injury potential risks. It is also critical to have a culture on your farm that the safety of all workers and family members is of utmost importance.
Avoiding farm work injuries that interfere with fall harvest can pay big financial dividends for crop producers. According to Bob Aherin, University of Illinois Extension Agricultural Safety Specialist lost time due to a work related injury during fall harvest can cost a producer and workers thousands of dollars. The average work related injury or occupational illness according to the National Safety Council is about $33,000 and if there is a death the cost is about 1.5 million dollars. This cost not only includes medical, hospital, and other direct injury related expenses but also includes not getting farm work done in a timely manner, lost productivity of the person injured, replacement labor and other indirect cost. The risk of experiencing these costs can be reduced significantly by doing the following:
1) Preparing machines before the harvest season will pay financially. This means performing routine maintenance, replacing worn parts, replacing safety shields, and making sure lights and flashers work and slow-moving vehicle emblems are clean. Machinery breakdowns during harvest are likely to result in frustration or anger that leads to excess stress as well as greater chance of injury.
2) Safety is of utmost economic importance. Steps to increase safety include repairing safety equipment, making sure shields are in place, blocking up the combine header before working underneath, and making sure you are very visible when traveling on rural roads. Many serious lost-time injuries occur when getting in and out of a machine, so make sure ladders, steps, and handholds are in good condition. When climbing up or down, always maintain at least three points of contact-one hand and two feet or one foot and two hands.
3) Combine fires are costly. Keep the combine and other machines clean. Watch for sources of combustible materials that could lead to a fire, such as leaky fuel lines, weak hydraulic hoses, and oil-soaked crop residue. Make sure there is at least one, and preferably two, ten-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguishers on every combine. Smaller extinguishers are useless against a typical combine fire.
If your combine does catch on fire, it’s important to quickly pull away from the standing crop (within a few seconds) and shut off the engine before trying to fight the fire.
4) Taking breaks is a key investment of a small amount of time to reduce injury risk and stress. It’s important to get down off a machine every two hours or so, even for a five-minute leg stretch. Drink lots of water, even in cool weather.
If you pack a lunch, include an apple, grapes, carrot sticks, or other fruits and vegetables. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein give your body the necessary energy and nutrition to meet the physical demands of work during harvest.
5) Set up a communication system to minimize downtime costs. Cell phones are the most common form of communication. They make it possible to improve scheduling, line up parts and repairs, and coordinate family activities. They also provide a way to get help in case of an emergency. But avoid using a cell phone when driving, even on rural highways. Recent studies have shown the potential for a roadway accident is four times greater when driving while using a cell phone.
— University of Illinois Extension Ogle County
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