As the COVID19 virus spreads, many of us are wondering what precautions agricultural producers should be taking and how those precautions might differ from the recommendations given to the general public. The AgriSafe network is preparing a webinar to address these issues on April 2nd 2020. The webinar is free to AgriSafe members and $30 for nonmembers. You can participate in the webinar as it happens if you log in to your computer during the event or watch it as a video afterwards. Registration for the webinar is already open and can be found at the link below.
Additionally, keep an eye on the CDC’s latest recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID19. Most of these are common sense things that we should be doing anyways like frequent hand washing and staying home if you’re sick. Keep in mind though that this virus is particularly severe for people over the age of 70 and anyone with pre-existing lung, heart, and immune system conditions. The vast majority of healthy adults and children who catch the virus will recover without becoming seriously ill, but if you or a family member falls into one of the high risk categories, be especially careful about potential exposures. Here is the link to the CDC’s recommendations page:
I came across an article which describes DIY system for unclogging grain bin augers from outside of the bin. This is a big deal in terms of improving safety, since entering a grain bin to remove clogs is one of the most dangerous tasks on the farm. With the wet weather this year and the late harvest, wet grain and clogs have been a huge problem this year. It seems like hardly a week has gone by lately where I haven’t seen an article about someone becoming trapped in a grain bin, and way too often these incidents have been fatal.
The DIY solution for clearing a clog from the outside was designed by Guy Mills, a Nebraska farmer. His solution uses a hose, a steel pipe, two elbow joints, and a heavy duty (250cfm) compressor to blow the clogs out/apart a few inches at a time. While most compressors that you would use to say put air in tires or operate drills don’t have that kind of pressure, most rental places have them for less than $50 a day. The compressor really packs a punch though, so if your bin is older use caution so that you don’t accidentally cause damage in the process of removing clogs. Also since this solution uses compressed air at very high pressures/velocities be extremely careful that the components you choose and your assembly methods are able to handle the pressure and follow all safety recommendations for the compressor itself.
Here is the link to the original article which gives more detailed instructions on how to build and use the de-clogger:
It’s now February and for many of us, this is the closest we get to having “down time” at any point in the year. If you find yourself with a few spare hours sometime in the next few weeks, it might be a good opportunity to think about making a farm safety plan for your farm. A safety plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as:
-Making sure that emergency numbers are up-to-date and are saved in everyone’s phones and/or posted where they might be needed.
– Going through your first aid kits and making sure that they are well-stocked and that nothing has expired.
-Walking around and checking that your fire extinguishers haven’t expired and are in good shape.
-Making sure that you have enough/new protective equipment like ear plugs or dust masks.
-Checking that your slow moving vehicle signs and all of the lighting on your equipment is in good shape.
-Going through your storage areas to be sure that any pesticides, medications, weed killers, etc that have expired or that you won’t use get disposed of properly.
-Working on clearing walkways and putting down fresh gravel as much as the weather allows.
The point is, as soon as planting season hits everyone is going to be super busy. By doing some of these little things that improve safety ahead of time if you have an hour free here and there goes a long way towards preventing problems later on.
If you want to create a more structured farm safety plan, the link below goes to an article that has a list of age safety plan resources at the bottom. Different farms are going to find different program structures more useful, so browse around and see if there is a template or program that works for you.
Continuing with the theme of reducing time outside and preventing water tank problems over the winter, here is a video by Our Wyoming Life showing an informal experiment using different equipment and methods to keep tanks thawed. The experiment includes minimizing cost and maximizing thawing so you might find some helpful hints to save money. Having do deal with frozen tanks can be a major hazard in winter. You have to deal with cold exposure, trying to break ice while standing on ice, and trying to fix electrical equipment when your mobility is limited due to the cold and extra clothing. The less tank maintenance you need to do over the winter, the better. I also appreciate all of the safety equipment you can see in the background of the video; ATV helmets in the truck, cargo straps, fenced off electrical equipment, and overall cleanliness and organization. They seem to have a lot of neat videos so I’m going to binge watch a bunch of them and see what else I can pick out that would help with safety and prevention.
Thought I’d share this video by the Nebraska extension on caring for cattle during the winter. Most of the video is about keeping cattle comfortable and well-fed over the winter, but a lot of strategies that are good for cattle are good for the farmer too. Planning ahead and dealing with any infrastructure problems before the really cold weather hits reduces the likelihood of having to deal with an emergency when the weather is awful. Some preventative maintenance on water heaters, pipes/hoses, fences, gates, feed systems, and light fixtures can prevent problems later on, and it is important to deal with any mud or standing water before it freezes. You can also think about moving feeders around to make them as easy to access as possible over the winter. The more you can take a preventative approach, the more problems you’ll be able to avoid.
Today I’m sharing an article from Farm Progress about a farmer who survived being engulfed in a grain bin. There have been several fatal engulfments already this year, and as the article states around 50% of engulfments are fatal. The main factors that made this case a near miss were that other people were working nearby. No one should enter a grain bin without a second person there who is not in the grain and can get help, but fortunately in this case there were at least other people within earshot. Since the farmer’s leg was low enough in the bin that it was near the auger, it also sounds like the bin wasn’t full enough to completely submerge him. A third factor that helped was that the fire department was able to respond quickly and had a grain rescue system. More and more fire departments are investing in plastic barricades that help more grain from falling in and grain vacuums, plus the training to use them properly. However, there are still many rural fire departments who aren’t ready to respond to an engulfment.
Anyone who is cleaning and refilling bins needs to be especially careful given the late planting and wet conditions so far this year. Wet grain is more likely to form crusts which can either cause a hollow space to form under a surface layer resulting in a fall-through type engulfment or to cause grain to stick to the sides of the bin resulting in an avalanche-style engulfment. Engulfments are preventable. The UMASH grain safety checklist (link provided below) is a good starting point. Developing bin entry procedures that are appropriate to the type of bin being used and following them every single time someone enters the bin is key to preventing engulfment. Keeping kids out of grain bins is also important. A lot of kids are tempted by the idea of climbing and playing in grain so it is important to be sure that they don’t have access to bins or ladders.
Here is the link to the UMASH grain safety checklist:
Here is an ATV safety checklist that was published by UC Davis. ATVs are one of the most dangerous vehicles on farms, and many of the injuries and fatalities happen to children. Often, kids and teenagers are injured when they are riding for fun and not when they are doing farm work. They ride too fast on terrain where ATVs should not be used such as steep slopes and on roads. Using an ATV that is too big for the rider also causes problems because children do not have enough body mass to lean and balance out the weight of an adult-sized ATV. Smaller adults might also want to consider a smaller model.
Another thing that helps prevent ATV injuries is helmet use. It’s important that riders wear the correct size helmet, and that helmets are replaced if they experience even a small impact. You can also consider adding a roll bar. Like with tractors, many ATV fatalities happen when the vehicle rolls over on to the rider, and unlike tractor roll bars, many ATV roll bars can be installed at home.
Here is an article I found on the importance of designing tools that work for women. Trying to use tools that just don’t work the way they are supposed to is a constant problem for me, ranging from the minor annoyance of having to find a step stool because I’m too short to reach something to blisters and sore muscles from tools improperly because I physically can’t use them the way they were designed. Power tools in particular tend to be problematic. A lot of drills and saws that are designed to be used one-handed are so bulky and heavy that I end up having to use both hands which puts my back and shoulders in an awkward position. Tools attached to poles like shovels, weed cutters, tree trimmers, etc are also a problem because the handles are never the right length. I end up having to work around the ends of the poles or can’t use the grips correctly. If it’s a tool I’m carrying, sometimes have to carry it in the wrong direction or lift it way higher than I should because the ends drag on the ground or cause me to trip. For example, when I’m checking fences and am carrying a tree trimmer bucket of fencing supplies, the arm carrying the trimmer has to be held at chest height so the handles aren’t dragging on the ground and I end up with a sore arm for a couple of days afterwards.
The percentage of female farmers and farm employees is growing, and with that the demand for tools that are designed for women is growing. There are more tool sets being marketed to women than there used to be, but be careful when you go out looking for “women’s tools” that you are buying are well-made tools ergonomically designed for women. A lot of the “women’s tool sets” that I’ve looked at are either 1) cheaply made tools that are just smaller rather than ergonomically re-designed or 2) tools that haven’t been redesigned at all but have been painted pink. Through jewelry making and stained glass I’ve found a couple fantastic sets of pliers, and Sears at one point had a really good women’s ergonomic hammer, but otherwise I haven’t had much luck. It sounds like there is a group of ergonomics researchers who are looking to change that though, so here’s hoping they come out with some better options.
With a lot of the East Coast experiencing flooding, I thought I’d post some flood cleanup guidelines from AgriSafe. I was able to see a presentation on flood recovery at the International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health (ISASH) conference over the summer, and the information from AgriSafe covers the same information as the presentation. There are so many things to consider before attempting to clean up after a flood. Flood water is almost always contaminated with sewage and animal waste, plus farm chemicals might also be part of the mix. Debris including broken glass, wood splinters, mud, metal, etc can make it extremely dangerous to enter the water. It also only takes a day or two for potentially toxic mold to start growing on wet surfaces. Clearing debris is hard work that can easily cause injury or exhaustion. Damage to structures and electrical systems can put clean up crews at risk for electric shock or even building collapse. In short, before you attempt to clean up, thoroughly research what the hazards might be and take precautions before you start work. The information on the AgriSafe network is a good source for general information. Also, don’t hesitate to call in the experts. Many FEMA and local disaster recovery groups are able to provide protective equipment and expert advice for individual cleanup projects, so if you find yourself dealing with a flood be sure to check for local resources too.
Click on the link below to see AgriSafe’s flood cleanup guides and checklists:
Here is an article from AgPro that talks about how remote technology is allowing a farmer with ALS to keep working. Even though he is no longer able to get in the tractor, remote data access and employees are allowing him to manage his farm from the office. Click on the link below to view the article.