Harvest is when farmers begin to see the results of their hard work. Consequently minds are rushing, strategies brewing and time clocks ticking. Every moment counts in the race against the weather to get the best quality product off the field.
“Before you rush to the harvest, take a few moments to prepare a safety strategy,” says Kenda Lubeck, a farm safety co-ordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
“This can be as formal or informal as suits your operation, but the harvesting team needs to be aware of risks and dangers and know how to eliminate or avoid them.”
Human life is number 1 on the list of things to preserve during the harvest. When you leave the house, take the time and extra steps to ensure you and your team know and follow harvest safety practices.
“Communication is vital among the work team,” says Lubeck. “It’s important to know where each person will be; how long a task or job will take; how to contact each other if need be; and, in the case of someone not showing up, when and where to search for them.”
“It is also important to have a common non-verbal language. When working around equipment the noise and dust make verbal communication impossible at times. Agree ahead of time on what different hand signals mean. The last thing you want is for someone to be working on equipment while another person starts operating it.”
To learn universal hand signals, go to www.agriculture.alberta.ca/farmsafety
Staying healthy is another link in the safety chain. Realize how far you can push yourself and when to back off. By pushing past fatigue, hunger or thirst it’s only a matter of time until a mistake is made. Be sure to drink hydrating fluids, stay away from alcohol, eat healthy meals at regular intervals, take breaks to clear your mind and get quality sleep.
“Even though farmers may feel that they should get while the gettin’s good, remember there’s no getting’ after an injury,” says Lubeck.
Maintaining equipment and the safety features on the equipment is another safety step that should not be neglected. Guards and shields serve a purpose, namely — they guard and shield you from danger. Be sure to take the time before harvest to check equipment and make sure it is running smoothly.
If equipment needs to be fixed in the middle of the harvest, take the necessary precautions. Make sure all machinery is shut off, hydraulics are lowered, the brake is on, and that you have the key in your pocket before you crawl under, stick your hand in, straddle or climb into a piece of machinery.
“While some farmers may be willing to accept risks, they also need to assess when a risk is worth taking,” says Lubeck. “Risks to property or products, such as putting grain in storage a little on the tough side, well, you can replace that. But, if the risk could damage a person, such as stepping over a power take-off rather than walking around the equipment, there is no replacement.”
“It takes planning, but, being safety conscious should be part of every farm work strategy, just like budgeting. Some safety procedures take a concerted effort — such as driving safely — and some just go hand in hand with everyday life and are seamless — for instance putting on a seat belt. The bottom line is that safety should always be intentional.”