For many farmers, the warmer temperatures means one thing — time to get the planters rolling. However, planting season also brings increased risk of physical injury and mental stress among farmworkers and families, says University of Missouri Extension safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch.
Before heading to the fields, it is critical to review basic safety lessons with workers and family members this spring.
Rural roadway safety
Remind others to share the road, slow down and watch rural roads for slow-moving farm equipment on hills and curves, says Funkenbusch.
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Farmers should check equipment for slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblems and do a safety check of turn signals and mirrors before driving. Put cellphones down and reduce other distractions.
In addition to distractions, we should discourage children from riding on tractors. They can fall off or become injured in power takeoff accidents.
If there are children on the farm, make a habit of walking around equipment before starting the tractor, she says. Avoid loose-fitting clothing and tie back long hair to avoid PTO tragedies. Check out more guidelines here.
The National Ag Safety Database reports that the number of farm injuries involving animals ranks second only to machinery accidents.
Animals may look friendly but can easily feel spooked or threatened when approached by people who are not their usual caretakers. Train visitors to respect the animals and be alert around livestock.
For more information on animal safety, visit the National Ag Safety Database here.
Many farm families own and operate all-terrain vehicles for work and fun, but ATVs are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles.
Review owners manual rules and adhere to age and legal requirements. Follow recommendations on weight limits, number of riders and safety equipment such as helmets, eye protection and clothing. For more information on ATV safety, check out the ATV Safety Information Center here.
It is also important to train family members and workers to use proper personal protective equipment when working around herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. Thoroughly read, understand, and follow label instructions. Store chemicals in original containers and keep children away from them.
It is a great practice to know the telephone number of your local poison control center or the National Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222.
Stress less, sleep more
Many farm accidents result from stress or lack of sleep. Equipment breakdowns, untimely rains, and long hours can cause short-term stress that can reduce reaction times and prompt people to take shortcuts that lead to accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need seven to nine hours of quality sleep daily.
In addition to sleep, stress is a huge factor in farm safety. On a national level, Farm Bureau provides resources for farmers and ranchers struggling with their demanding profession. Thankfully, many states have their own resources through their own extension offices for local farmers and ranchers as well.
Even though it is “go time” for many farmers, it is also important to take the proper time to allow for safety on the farm to ensure a successful planting season.