Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Dan Martens, U of M Extension
National Farm Safety Week is Sept. 19-25, annually, the week that includes the first day of fall. The fall harvest season has begun with corn silage chopping well under way in central Minnesota. A few soybeans have been combined. A rapidly maturing crop adds to the stress of getting corn silage chopped before it is too mature and too dry. Rainy weather and muddy fields also add hazards and stress to the harvest. The advantage for the 2010 harvest is that the crop is maturing well and there should not be the wet grain and mold issues that were prevalent in 2009.
Regardless of conditions, farmers, farm family members, farm workers and the general public need to give deliberate attention to safety hazards during the harvest season. People around the farm should talk together about unique hazards related to specific tasks. Keep each other informed about where you are and what tasks you are likely to be working on. Ask questions and offer suggestions about potential problems you see. Always shut down equipment and let it come to a stop before dealing with plugging or other maintenance or repair tasks. Falls are a significant hazard on equipment and buildings. Protect your lungs, hearing and eyes with appropriate safety equipment.
"Silo gas" can be a problem within 24 hours of chopping and for several weeks after chopping. If silage in a silo needs to be leveled and covered, do this immediately after the last load is put in. Then stay out of the silo for at least 2-3 weeks. Make sure an air escape is open and the blower is running to flush old air out of a silo and to bring fresh air in before entering the silo. "Silo gas" can accumulate in the silo chute, feed rooms, and barns. Good ventilation is critical. If there is any amount of "silo gas" exposure, seek medical care. Some gas compounds form acids with moisture in the lungs and can become more intense over time.
Patience with persistence pays dividend. Do your best to get needed sleep and eat regular healthy meals. Talk together about other family needs and commitments and discuss ways to accommodate things that are important among family members. Understand the challenge of sorting priorities and making difficult choices. Stay committed to caring about each other even when you can't be in three places at the same time. Safety means taking care of relationships along with taking care of the physical health of farm families and workers, the crop, and livestock.
Check to make sure slow-moving vehicle signs are visible and not faded badly. Minimize travel with farm equipment on roads when the sun is down. Make sure lights are working properly. If needed, follow farm machinery with a second vehicle with warning flashers running. Do maintenance work on equipment lighting systems. Some farm equipment stores and rural hardware stores carry excellent battery powered, magnet mounted lighting units.
The general public should give particular attention to driving practices. This includes care in approaching slow-moving farm implements and large loads on the road. Remember the farm equipment operator might not be able to see or hear your approach. Anticipate the possibility of equipment turning left into farm yards and fields. Slow down and make sure the farm equipment operator sees you before you pass.
Here are good sources of information on farm safety:
National Education Center for Agricultural Safety www.necasag.org/nfsnhw.php.
Childhood Agricultural Safety Network www.childagsafety.org/members.htm.
National Ag Safety Database http://nasdonline.org.
National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wis. www.marshfieldclinic.org/nfmc.
Let's aim to do our best to bring in the crop and to bring the people home safely.