Video: Farm shop safety

Sharing a video by SAIF corporation that briefly addresses seven problem areas in the farm shop. There have already been several reports of eye injuries from grinding and from cutting metal wire. Wearing eye protection that completely encloses your eyes is important. The glasses-style ones are better than nothing, but pieces of metal can still sneak in around the edges when grinding. It’s important to wear your goggles even for small, quick jobs. Another trend I’ve noticed in the shop and elsewhere on the farm is that clutter and mess is a major contributing factor to injuries. For many of the reports in the database, manure, mud, caked on grime, debris from feed, and tools laying out cause slips, trips, and falls. When you’re in a hurry, it can be easy to forget to put things away or to put on your safety goggles, but the few seconds it takes can make the difference between being able to get on with your day and having to make a trip to the doctor.

Youth horse safety courses from extension.org

I was researching horse safety and came across this website that offers free online horse safety courses for kids and teens. The courses cover a wide range of topics including machine safety, understanding horse behavior, safe riding techniques, and horse care guides. From what I’ve learned from our neighbors who have horses, keeping the horse happy and healthy is especially important if you want to keep people safe! The courses are designed mostly for teens and preteens who are either taking riding lessons or are considering getting a job at a boarding facility, but they could also be beneficial for anyone who is planning on being around horses and doesn’t have much experience with them.

Here is the link to the introductory webpage. If you want to take classes, you can click on the registration link to create an account (this lets you save your progress) and start taking courses.

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Video: Manure Pit Safety

Today I’m sharing an interview with Penn State’s Dennis Murphy published by Progressive Dairyman.  I saw their presentation on manure gas at the Midwest Regional Agricultural Safety and Health conference back in 2016, and it really demonstrates how quickly gas can build up without proper ventilation. Manure gas is one of the most deadly hazards on the farm.  The gas is colorless and it only takes a matter of seconds to loose consciousness. Unfortunately, in many cases you see multiple victim incidents because your natural instinct is to try to get the person that went in out. Manure gas is also highly flammable and I can also think of a few cases of barns and pits exploding/burning down very quickly due to manure gas catching on fire from bad wiring or cigarettes.  Foaming can be a warning sign that flammable gas is present, but the gasses can still be there even if there isn’t foam.

 

Prevention in the form of ventilation is key, and there are some manure additives that can reduce the production of manure gasses. Penn State offers an online tool to predict how long a pit needs to be ventilated to make it safe to enter (click here to see it). It is also essential to have equipment to detect manure gas and to test before and during every pit entry.  Penn State has produced a comprehensive guide to different types of gas detection equipment (click here to see it).  Another key piece of equipment for all manure pit entries is a harness and safety line. Since anyone attempting a rescue would also be affected by the gas, the only way to get someone out without creating a bigger problem is to pull them out with a harness and safety line.  This also means that for every person working in the pit, there should be at least two people outside of the pit standing ready to pull them out if they have a problem.  Ideally if manure gas levels are too high, or if oxygen levels are too low,  entry should be avoided until the pit can be ventilated enough to enter safely.  If for some reason that isn’t possible, a supplied oxygen system must be used for entry.   Supplied oxygen systems can be expensive, and requires regular maintenance training to use, so if you decide to go this route, make sure that you are prepared to invest in training and equipment maintenance too.  Some places use supplied oxygen for every pit entry, which is a good idea if you can afford to keep the equipment and training up to date.

Preventing back pain

Today I thought I would share this article from the Marshfield Clinic on preventing back pain.  Short-term and long-term back pain are very common in people whose jobs involve a lot of lifting or operating heavy machinery.  When people talk about preventing back pain, they often talk about lifting with your legs or wearing a back brace.  These things can help, but the best way to prevent back pain is to minimize how much lifting and carrying you do in the first place. For example, rather than carrying buckets back and forth by hand over long distances, put them in a wagon or use a vehicle to transport them. We’ve been using an old lawnmower with a utility wagon to transport feed across the yard and it’s been working well. Even small reductions in lifting and carrying can add up over time!

Click here for the Marshfield Clinic article

One major cause of lower back pain that isn’t covered in as much detail is full body vibrations caused by operating heavy machinery. One of the professors in the biomedical engineering department here has been studying ways to prevent back pain in truckers. Installing shock absorbing seats seems to help somewhat (click here to see some examples of shock absorbers for tractors). However, like with lifting-related back pain the best prevention is to try to reduce or eliminate exposure to the vibration.  In a lot of cases it isn’t practical to avoid vibration completely, but even taking a break for 5 minutes every hour or so and rotating operators if possible so that one person isn’t taking on all of the vibration can help. Like with lifting,  even reducing your exposure a little bit here and there can add up over time!

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Video: preventing needlestick injuries

I came across this video on preventing needlestick injuries and thought I would share it. A lot of people I know have had one or more needlestick injuries, and they can be pretty serious depending on what was being injected and what after-care is received.  One thing that the video doesn’t mention is that the packaging for injectable medications has instructions on what to do in case of a needlestick injury.  Knowing what actions need to be taken for each medication you’re using before an injury happens is another step to add to your prevention checklist!  I’ve also seen people use needle cap holders to prevent sticking them selves when re-capping (click here to see an example of a commercially available product). I don’t think you would necessarily need to buy something to use this type of system.  Any tube the right size to hold the cap that is weighted enough on the bottom to not fall over would work.  The same goes for sharps containers.  You don’t have to buy anything fancy or custom-made.  A tuperware container with the end of the lid cut off and re-attached with tape lets you open the lid just enough to put sharps inside, and can then be re-sealed. Just be sure to label it!  I also like the belt system they were using in the video.  Probably about half of the needlestick cases that have happened to people I know were due to keeping the syringe in their pocket.

 

Product review: Warmfit rechargeable heated insoles

Several members of my family got Warmfit rechargeable heated insoles for Christmas and used them during the extreme cold this week so I thought I would write a quick product review based on their report.  At around $60 they were a bit of an investment, although their price is sort of mid-range for reusable heated insoles. The initial consensus seems to be that they do a good job of keeping your feet warm and if they hold up as well over time as they’re supposed to they were worth the price.

Overall, the insoles performed well even in extremely cold temperatures. Here is a quick summary of some of the feedback I got:

  • The insoles were warm but not too warm. The level of heat wasn’t noticeably warm, like wearing socks just out of the dryer or using one of those single-use heat packs, but they kept your feet at a comfortable room temperature even in extreme cold, and it made it so that you didn’t have to go in part way through cores to thaw out your feet.
  • The fact that they don’t get too warm might make this a good product for people with circulation issues whose feet get cold even on relatively warmer days.  Sometimes the single-use ones can be too much on days that are warmer so that you end up having to choose between cold feet and sweaty feet, but these are a nice medium.
  • The overall fit was really good.  The size ranges listed on the packages were accurate, and it was easy to trim off a little to fit smaller sizes within the listed range
  • The comfort level was good. Sometimes when you buy insoles, they’re too thick and cause your shoes to not fit properly.  These were thin enough that the fit wasn’t effected.  They also stayed in place really well while performing a wide variety of activities

The main limitation so far seems to be the battery life.  They only stayed warm for 5-6 hours, and the tendency was for one insole to run out of battery slightly before the other.  If you wanted to use these for a longer work day, you would need to consider buying at least 2 pair and switching in the middle of the day.

Another question that remains is how well they hold up over time.  Wearing them for a few days during the extreme cold worked out well, but it hasn’t been long enough to know how they will hold up with extensive use  or if they will continue to work well from year to year.

If you want to try them out yourself, they sell mainly through Amazon. (here is a link to the item page) Their Amazon reviews seem mostly positive too.  Might be worth trying out if you have a hard time keeping your feet warm.

Tools for creating a safety and health program on your farm

The Canadian group AgSafe has released an updated set of tools for creating a safety and health program on your farm.  The new tool set is divided into strategies for small and large farms.  The documents provided are a short summary of everything that was covered in the first two semesters of agricultural safety and health classes that I took when I had just started my PhD program, so if it seems like a lot of information to take in at once, it is!  This program seems to cover a broader range of topics and has more detailed advice than some of the other DIY farm safety program systems.

I’ve been doing some research on Canadian agricultural safety and health lately since their injury and fatality rates are much lower than the US despite having similar crop and farmer demographics.  What I’ve found out is that in the 1990’s there was a massive movement to better understand and prevent farming injuries that is still continuing today.   AgSafe is one of several outreach programs created after results from the first round of big research studies came in, and the effort  put into it’s development really shows.

Their audit program is only available in Canada, however they have included the document they use to conduct audits with the other materials so that you can get an idea of how your operation would perform in one of their audits.

 

Click here to see the AgSafe tool set

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