By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau
Keeping children safe while they live, play and work on farms can be challenging. It’s even more difficult during harvest season – a peak time for agricultural injuries.
Long hours, a flurry of activity, less-than-ideal weather conditions and work involving large machines make corn, milo and soybean harvest a potentially dangerous period.
Fall harvest marks the pinnacle of a half year’s effort to produce these crops. During harvest, farmers work long, hard hours. Fifteen-minute meal breaks are about the only real time off in days that often stretch 10 hours
People and machines are pushed to their limits.
While every machine – combine, truck, tractor, grain cart or auger – provides its own unique hazards, operator stress or error account for most harvest accidents. Years of safety features built into these machines are useless without operator safety. Exceed human limitations and accidents are bound to follow.
Carrying an extra passenger is also a safety concern. Children or young adults can fall from cabs. It’s instinct to hold onto something when jarred off balance. Some people have reached for the door handle, accidently hitting the latch and fallen out.
Operator knowledge and attitude remain the key to a smooth, well-oiled fall harvest. A safe operator knows his or her skills, limitations and condition, both physical and emotional.
The safety-conscious operator knows each piece of equipment, its condition, capacities, limitations, hazards and safety equipment. Such an operator is constantly monitoring field and weather conditions.
It’s critical to train young people and go over safety precautions before harvest begins. Beyond the tasks associated with driving harvest equipment, recognizing potential hazards should be discussed.
Consider these safeguards:
Securely fasten seat belts.
Avoid ditches, embankments and holes if possible.
Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes and on questionable surfaces.
Avoid slopes too steep for operation.
Do not allow passengers – buddy seats may be a safer way.
Be sure everyone is a safe distance before moving.
Operate combines, tractors, trucks and grain carts as smoothly as possible.
Every fall In Kansas, thousands of acres of corn, milo and soybeans add to the pressure of slicing through those crops before foul weather or winter comes to call. With this added pressure comes the desire to take chances, short cuts and extend working hours. Such behavior only adds to fatigue and high levels of stress and tension.
Remember, harvest will take its toll if you don’t take breaks. Eating balanced meals, even if you only take 15 minutes is important.
Stop the machine. Crawl off and relax a few minutes while you’re eating.
Drink plenty of water, tea or other cold liquids during what can be hot, dry days. Jump out of your machine for such breaks at least every hour.
Walk around the machine to limber up. This will also allow you to check for possible trouble spots on your machinery.
Before harvest begins, check your equipment and perform the proper maintenance. Consult your operator’s manual or dealer if you have questions. Well-maintained machinery reduces the chance for breakdowns and related aggravation in the field.
Delays due to breakdown only force harvest crews to work longer and harder to catch up. Such delays also increase the chance of accidents during this catch-up period.
Pulling pre-harvest maintenance is easier and less frustrating than fixing such problems in the cold or heat, dirt and sweat of the harvest field. Reduce your chances of aggravation now – it will be worth it.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.