Cindy Easton discusess how to prevent farm accidents
The farming and ranching business isn’t an 8-5 position – it’s 24-7. From sunup to sundown, agriculture is an ongoing job, with cows to feed, fence to fix, hay to bale, things to check and crops to harvest. With so many tasks to accomplish in production agriculture, it can be easy to get in a hurry. Rushing to finish a job can prove dangerous. Farm accidents only take a second, and can leave an impact that will last a lifetime.
Cindy Easton, a ranch wife from Fulton, SD, reviewed the most-common farm accidents and reminders on how to prevent them. Easton spoke at the 9th Annual Women In Blue Jeans (WIBJ) Conference on Jan. 20, 2012 in Mitchell, SD.
“More than 70 percent of injuries happen during the months of May-September when farmers are busy planting and harvesting,” said Easton. “The largest numbers of farm equipment injuries occur in the ages of 15-65. The window is huge, and the most common injuries involve fingers, feet, knees and chest. The face, head and ankles are less common.”
Most devastating farm accidents claim almost 300 children’s lives each year, according to statistics. Programs like Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK) help to educate young people on farm safety practices.
“Fatal farm accidents often involve tractors and heavy machinery,” she said. “Tractor operators must deal with rough or slippery surfaces, obstacles, slopes and ditches, temperature extremes, dust, etc. Tractor upsets contribute to more farm-related fatalities than any other farm accident. Approximately 85 percent of all tractor overturns are to the side. Think about all the tractors you see baling the ditches, or the times we use heavy machinery to cross hilly pastures. These are dangerous scenarios.”
Side overturn often happens when hitting a raised object, operating on a steep incline, operating with a front-end loader, and handling large round hay bales. Rear overturn causes are less likely to occur, but if they due, are likely to be fatal. These situations occur when the tractor is stuck in mud or snow, when climbing a steep hill or when the clutch is released too quickly.
“Another thing we don’t think about is having kids join us in the tractor, 4-wheeler or lawn mower,” added Easton. “Extra riders are never safe. Falls can result in injury or death. Other tractor-related injuries and damage include: colliding with motor vehicles or roadside objects; slipping and falling while getting on and off; running over bystanders; striking overhead hazards; being crushed by a poorly-supported tractor during repair work; cuts, bruises and burns connected with maintenance and routine operations; being overcome by gases inside closed buildings; driving too fast for conditions; and being crushed between tractor and equipment being hitched or unhitched.”
The power take off (PTO) is a very dangerous component of the farm. Just one loose piece of material on a pair of coveralls is all it takes to get pulled in.
“Keep shields in place at all times, and confirm they are in good condition,” she advised. “Never step or reach across a PTO, and dress for safety with shirts tucked in and cuffs buttoned.”
Baling hay is also another scenario that can get ranchers into trouble.
“It’s better to handle bales with rear attachments than on the front, as there is less of a chance to overturn the tractor as it can’t be lifted as high,” she said. “Remember bales can roll, and their tremendous weight is sufficient to crush a body.”
The greatest hazard is manure pits, as gas levels can be deadly. Producers can quickly be overcome by the fumes. Another is grain storage; suffocation or drowning in flowing grain is the most common cause of death. Most victims of gravity box accidents are age 16 and younger; it takes only 2-3 seconds to become helpless in flowing grain, according to Easton.
“Use common sense, and no matter what you’re doing on the farm or ranch, remember to take safety breaks,” she added. “Another thing is ATV injuries. Excessive speed, inadequate operator experience, carrying passengers or reckless driving can cause injuries and death. Be cautious when working around animals, as well. We may think we know our cattle, but it’s important not to frighten or irritate our animals, as they can be dangerous.”
At the end of the day, practicing farm safety with each and every task completed on the ranch is of vital importance. These life-and-death decisions only take an extra second, but better be safe than sorry, Easton concluded. “Always, always, always think safety.”