I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks to everyone that has made reports! I just got back from the holiday break and was able to catch up on database intermittence and there were 20 new reports! The reports are what will ultimately help reduce injuries, so keep them coming! Over the next few days I’ll take a closer look at the data and see if there are any emerging trends.
A few weeks ago I went to the Midwestern Regional Agricultural Safety and Health (MRASH) conference in Council Bluffs Iowa to present the results of the part of my research that developed the agricultural self-report system. At the conference, farmers and ag safety people meet to talk research and different strategies they’ve tried to improve safety.
One of the farmers at the conference talked about system they were using at their large grain operation and it seemed pretty easy and useful so I thought I’d share it here. Basically, what they do is have everyone carry around cheap red tags that hold on with wire and a marker. If a piece of equipment is broken or being worked on, they write the problem on the tag and attach it in an obvious spot like the steering wheel or hitch or key so that if anyone else tries to move it or use it they know there is a problem and have what is going on with that piece of equipment. It’s a variation of a safety strategy called lock out tag out, which involves putting a lock or a tag on a piece of equipment so that no one can physically turn it on while it is being worked on. It might be particularly useful for larger farms where not everyone knows immediately about every single problem. It’s a pretty cheap solution too. You can find the tags at most office supply stores and it’s less than $10 for a huge box of them.
This tagging system is one way to avoid the types of incidents where one person is working on something and then another person turns on the machine. The example they were talking about at the conference was a case where someone was working on a silo unloader and almost lost their arm because another employee didn’t know they were in there and started running silage. It would also prevent equipment damage caused by someone trying to use something that is already broken.
Here is an article and video from the National Fire Protection Association with some tips on preventing winter fires. A lot of the information focuses on hazards in the home; fireplaces, space heaters, candles, decorations….however many of these tips apply to the farm too. If you’re using space heaters in the barn or shop, make sure they’re at least 3 feet away from anything flammable. Don’t leave anything with an open flame or exposed heating coils unsupervised and make sure all of your equipment is functioning properly at the beginning of the season.
Carbon monoxide is another hazard associated with open flame. I know someone who narrowly escaped carbon monoxide poisoning from running a propane space heater in his garage. Fireplaces can also create a carbon monoxide hazard if they’re not properly maintained. If you’re regularly using a heat source that burns fuel (wood, propane, gas, etc) it might be worthwhile to get an extra carbon monoxide detector. Sometimes fire departments, park districts, homeowners associations, and other groups offer free detectors so you might be able to pick up one for free if you check around.
Also be careful of holiday decorations indoors and out. The number of fires in the US peaks on December 25th, December 31st and January 1st, and holiday decorations are often to blame!
Here is an article from Equisearch with some tips on transporting horses during the winter. These tips are great for transporting other animals too, and for hauling trailers during the winter. In icy conditions, it’s especially important to make sure that you’re visible to other vehicles. Make sure that all of your light are working and that decals and slow moving vehicle signs are in good shape. Icy roads also make it more difficult to get moving and to stop. Make sure your tires and brakes are in top shape, and carry tire chains just in case. Finally, make sure that human and animal passengers have enough food, water, and insulation to handle a breakdown.
For those of you in Eastern Iowa, here is the information for an upcoming event hosted by the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health. The workshops focus on giving visitors to your farm a safe, fun experience but a lot of the information is also relevant to general farm safety. There will also be a similar event on January 8th in Black Hawk County, IA.
I went to the Midwest Rural Agricultural Safety and Health conference last week and one of the big topics for discussion was farm safety audits. The Iowa State Extension Office has one of the most expansive audit programs, (click here for some information on their audit program) and is trying to work with the local insurance companies to get farmers a discount for participating. If you don’t live in a state that has an audit program, or if you want to take a look on your own and see how your farm would do, the checklists auditors use are available online. Here are a few of them:
Here are some tips for getting through the winter from Maine AgrAbility. Most of these are basic winter weather tips; dress in layers, put down salt, etc. but it’s always nice to have a reminder before winter weather hits.
Wearing steel-toed boots with good treads that keep your feet warm and dry is a little thing that actually can have a big impact on safety. Feet that are too cold, sore, or wet make you more susceptible to slips, trips, and falls. Boots that have good treads can also help you keep your feet on the ground. Boots that come up above your ankle can help prevent ankle injuries if you do trip. Finally, sturdy boots with steel toes and a thick sole help protect your feet from objects and animals.
I think everyone in my family has experienced at least one injury because they didn’t take the time to put on proper footwear before going out to the barn. Over winter break 2 years ago I got a nasty bruise on my foot just from cleaning the shop because I was wearing regular tennis shoes. I was stacking scrap iron and a piece fell off the pile and landed on my foot. If it had been one of the bigger pieces, I probably would have wound up with broken bones! Even though I wasn’t going home often at the time, I tracked down a pair of steel toed boots to wear there because tennis shoes just weren’t going to work. Another time back in high school, I was very close to getting a nail in my foot because I had been wearing the same boots for several years and the soles weren’t thick enough any more to protect my feet. Luckily I pulled my foot back because I was moving slowly enough that I could feel the nail going through my boot but if I had been in more of a hurry it probably would have wound up in my foot.
So if your boots are getting old and worn, it might be a good time to invest in some new ones, and make sure that everyone is wearing their safety shoes if they’re going to be in the barn!