Preventing Fires During Harvest

Here is another harvest safety article on fire prevention.  I vaguely remember our combine catching fire when I was little. I think we caught it early, and there wasn’t much damage.  Someone that lives down the road from us wasn’t so lucky 2 years ago.  They made it out in time, but their combine was a total loss and the burnt out shell ended up sitting out in their field for several months before they were able to break it up and have it hauled it away as scrap.  Fires can move quickly, causing property damage and putting the operator at risk.

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Preventative maintenance is the best way to minimize the risk of fire. Clean out dust and debris before the start of the season and as often as you can during harvest.  Also check wiring and bearings for signs of damage at the beginning of the season. Pay especially close attention to the wiring if you see signs that mice have been in your combine while it was parked. I don’t know why mice enjoy chewing on wires so much, but it seems like every few years we find something they’ve chewed up and wreaked.

Having a fire extinguisher handy is also recommended.  Since most tractor fires are petroleum based, make sure you get an ABC-type extinguisher. The National Agricultural Safety Database recommends the 5-pound size extinguisher for tractors and combines.Click here to see the NASDB’s recommendations for ag fire extinguishers. Extinguishers cost as little as $30 so it’s not a big expense.  Keep an eye on the expiration dates, and make sure that extinguishers are replaced as needed.

If you see signs of smoke, get out of the cab right away. Use caution if you try to put the fire out yourself.  Surfaces can become hot very quickly, and if you open on a panel on an area that is on fire, the increased airflow can cause the fire to expand quickly and expand outside of the compartment.  When in doubt, call the fire department!
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October is Ergonomics Month

October is Ergonomics month so I thought I’d mix some ergonomics articles in with the harvest safety articles.  The article I’m sharing today is from the local channel 2 news in Iowa City about a farm equipment vibrations study by two University of Iowa professors. I’ve been able to see some of the equipment for their study and it’s really neat.

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Vibration has been studied extensively in other jobs like construction work and trucking, but this is one of the few studies that has focused on farm equipment.  Full body vibration is a major cause of lower back pain, and can cause pain in other parts of the body too.  There are a number of strategies for reducing the effects of vibration, although some of the strategies are not very practical for farmers: reduce the number of hours spent operating equipment,  sit up straight and don’t twist or bend while operating equipment, invest in newer machines that require less force to operate the controls…Other strategies such as wearing a back brace or taking a break to get up and stretch every hour or so are more practical, but there have been mixed results as to whether or not they are effective at preventing vibration-related pain.   Vibration-reducing seats have been shown to reduce exposure and increase comfort levels for truckers, and are available for tractors too.  They can be pretty pricey (A quick Google search came up with models ranging in price from $150-$2000) but might be worth the investment if it makes driving more comfortable.

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