Video: Why do we wear PPE?

Here is a fun video that uses food to demonstrate why PPE (personal protective equipment) is important. It also shows why non-safety eye wear doesn’t provide as much protection as you would like. In the database I’ve seen one near-miss where the person’s glasses were fortunately enough to protect their eyes from a piece of wood, but in another case, someone suffered permanent eye damage from a steel burr because they weren’t wearing any eye protection. We also have numerous cases of injuries as a result of getting stepped on, something getting dropped, or stepping on something while not wearing protective footwear. A lot of PPE is cheap and readily available, so make sure you have some and are wearing it!

Extra Harvest Hazards Anticipated this Fall

Today I’m sharing an article from AgWeb explaining how harvest this year might be even more hazardous than usual. A lot of crops were planted late this year. This means that moisture content will be higher, which increases the risk of mold and the risk that grain will stick to the sides of bins and equipment, which could create additional engulfment and equipment hazards. Late planting also means later harvest, which in turn means that more people will be on the road during sunset (which tends to be the most dangerous time to move equipment) and after dark. Pushing harvest later also makes it more likely that farmers will have to deal with frost damage and snow.

While a later harvest can’t be helped, there are things that farmers can do to deal with the extra hazards that come with it. It’s difficult to be patient, especially with winter weather coming, but the more you can wait for grain to be properly dry, the more you can avoid the group of hazards that go with wet grain, plus you’ll save on drying costs. Always follow proper grain bin entry procedures, including wearing a harness, not working in the bin alone, and wearing proper respirtory protection. If your grain is running really far behind, consider other options like making silage rather than trying to force it in if it isn’t going to be ready. Make sure that equipment lighting and slow moving vehicle signs on harvest equipment are good to go now, and consider adding additional lighting or some of the newer slow moving vehicle signs that are more reflective. The conditions this year have been far from ideal, but a little bit of preparation will help deal with some of the hazards that come with a late harvest.

You can see the original article here:

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Electrical Safety

I was browsing through the National Ag Safety Database and came across an article on electrical safety. Since a lot of us deal with electricity on a daily basis in the form of electric fences, lighting, electrical systems in machinery, electric water pumps, etc I thought I’d share. Electrical systems don’t hold up well in the farm environment, so it’s good to keep reminding yourself how to avoid getting shocked. I’d like to add that even if you’re not working on an electrical system, keep an eye out for any wires that might be in the area, and if at all possible make sure that any electrical systems in the area are totally shut off. I know a few people who have gotten shocked fixing equipment because mice had damaged the insulation on some of the wires that were in the same area as whatever they were fixing. Another hazard to be aware of that the article doesn’t mention is capacitors. Capacitors are round or cylinder shaped devices (see picture for some examples) used to store then output charge in electrical systems. The amount of time a capacitor can store a charge depends on the size and the quality of the capacitor, to the point where some of the nicer ones can hold a charge for years. Err on the safe side and always assume that a capacitor is charged if you encounter one!

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Here is a link to the NASD article:

Swine Farm Hazards

It’s been a while since I posted an article on hogs, so here is a nice summary of some of the hazards found on hog farms published by the North Carolina Swine Veterinary Group. I think most people who work on hog farms are familiar with most of these hazards, but it was an interesting read for me because it gave enough information to see how hazards on hog farms are similar and different from the hazards on beef farms. In particular, hog farmers are at higher risk for contracting a zoonotic infections since there is a bigger overlap between diseases hogs can get and diseases pigs can get. The manure gas hazard and respiratory hazards in general seem to be more of a problem in hog farming too, due to the higher concentration of animals and enclosed buildings. On the other hand, the risk of being injured while handling hogs is lower. Otherwise, many of the risks seem similar: ergonomic issues, noise, heavy machinery, needlestick injuries, and working alone. Here is the link to the original article if you’d like to check it out!

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Video: PTO demonstration

I was browsing on YouTube and found this video that demonstrates how fast and how severe a PTO entanglement can be. Loose clothing and long hair that isn’t tied back can easily become tangled. I forget who it was, but I remember talking to someone who got his sleeve caught in a PTO shaft and luckily his sleeve tore off and he wasn’t pulled in.

Ideally, the best way to prevent entanglement is to make sure the PTO is off if there is anyone on the ground near it. While that might not be practical 100% of the time, the more you can think of ways to avoid having someone standing next to a running PTO shaft, the more you can reduce the risk. Stepping or reaching over a running PTO shaft is especially dangerous, and there is a strong temptation to just step or reach over if you need something on the other side rather than walking around, but it’s one of those situations where taking the extra minute to go around significantly reduces risk.

Guards are also prevent PTO entanglement, especially ones that cover the joints as well as the PTO shaft. I’ve seen multiple cover designs that have ends that are retractable or have holes cut in the guard to allow for greasing. Overall, the retractable ones seem to work better but I think it depends on the particular piece of equipment too. Check out AgriSupply for a variety of PTO guards that seem to be priced a little lower than some of the other suppliers.

Scraped the top of my head this morning so let’s talk about head injuries

After a week of helping several of my friends move into new apartments, I’m back on the farm and was wanting to make another post. I was thinking about what a good topic would be when it hit me, quite literally, in the form of having a minor injury of my own this morning. I’ll start with a quick write up of what happened and the steps I’m taking to stop it from happening again, and then I’ll provide some resources on head injuries.

What happened:

I was doing morning chores, and checked on my sister-in-law’s ducks. It looked like they were getting low on food, so I decided to feed them. The ducks live in an old corn crib, the kind with the wire mesh sides. This is great for the ducks because they have a ton of space where nothing can get at them, but it means that whoever is feeding them has to go in and out through the corn crib door, which is maybe about 4 feet tall. The bottoms of the vertical wires at the top of the door frame stick down about 1/8 of an inch below the horizontal wire. When I went back out, I didn’t duck (pun intended) quite far enough and scraped the top of my head on one of the bits of wire sticking down. Not a serious injury by any means, but since it’s on the top of my head it hurt like crazy and I now have a 3 inch long scrape/bruise that is going to be bugging me for a few days.

Factors leading to the injury:

The design of the door was the main factor that led to the injury. The doorway is too short to get through without stooping, the ends of the vertical wires stick out in such a way that they can easily scratch someone, and there isn’t anything to warn you that the sharp bits are there. I’ll also cite worker inexperience since I rarely feed the ducks. Also, talking with other people it seems like everyone has scraped themselves on those wires at some point so this is also a case where an ongoing issue hasn’t been addressed and multiple people have experienced the same injury.

Corrective measures:

To make the hazard easier to see, and to dull the sharp edges I wrapped the whole top of the doorway in neon pink tape. Hopefully this will mean that the scratch I got this morning will be the last time anyone gets hurt by the ends of the wires. Also, it’s a super cheap solution that doesn’t interfere with how the door closes. Prevention doesn’t always have to be expensive or complicated!

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Additionally I’d like to share a few articles on assessing and treating head injuries that I was looking at this morning. Fortunately I didn’t have any symptoms of a serious injury, but even so it felt a lot worse than it was because there are so many nerve endings in your scalp.

Here is the article from Colorado Children’s Hospital that I looked up earlier that seemed the most helpful. It’s about head injuries in children, but the same information works for adults too. I like how they clearly spell out when to call 911, when to go to urgent care, when to see a doctor non-urgently , and when to treat at home.

Here is another article from WebMd that covers a lot of the same information:

Heat Warning for the Midwest

With a lot of the Midwest experiencing extreme temperatures this week I thought I’d post an article with some reminders on staying safe in the heat. Realistically, with how far behind a lot of us are on hay, not working during the day isn’t an option. Just make sure you’re taking extra precautions in the extreme hot weather! Here is an article from OSHA that covers the basics of preventing and treating heat-related illnesses:

I’d also like to share a few things that have helped me keep working in extreme heat:

-Small ice packs that you can put in your pocket are amazing! A few months ago they were handing out little 4″x4″ ice packs with the College of Public Health’s logo on them at a student event and I took a ton of them and have been sticking them in my pockets on hot days. They only take an hour or so to get warm, so I’ve been putting a bunch of them in an insulated lunch box and switch to a new pair between loads. You can find mini ice packs on pretty much any online shopping platform for less than $1, so it’s pretty easy to get a bunch of them. If it’s your turn to drive, frozen water bottles or larger ice packs provide even better cooling.

-Another thing I do that seems to help a lot is to wear a damp bandana on my head while I’m working, and periodically putting more cool water on it. You loose more heat through your head than you do through other parts of your body and if you can keep your head cool it can help you feel more comfortable.

-Wearing lighter weight fabrics makes a big difference for me. I go to goodwill and find the lightest weight khaki pants I can buy, and end up feeling about 10 degrees cooler in them vs wearing jeans. The downside is the lighter weight materials wear through more quickly, but if you can find them for cheap at a secondhand store and strategically save them for when it’s super hot it can be a workable system.

-Mixing plain water and drinks that restore electrolytes seems to work better than plain water alone. When you sweat, your body looses electrolytes too which can make you feel drained, and can cause more significant health problems if you loose enough of them. For me, having every 3rd or 4th drink be something with an electrolyte in it seems to work well, but different ratios work better for different people.

Stay cool out there this week!

Ticks and Tickborne Illness

With the wet weather, we’ve seen a huge increase in the tick population so I thought I would do an article on preventing tickborne illness. It’s been a really bad year for ticks. We’re seeing a lot more of them in their usual habitat back in the woods and are seeing them in places they usually don’t hang out like in our lawn and in the grass by the bucket calves. Tickborne illnesses, especially Lyme disease, can cause serious health problems. In some areas, up to 50% of ticks carry Lyme, so take preventative measures to not get bit. Here are some strategies that we’ve found helpful:

-Always wear long pants and closed toe shoes, even if you’re just stepping out for a few minutes.

-If you’re going in to an area that is likely to be infested like the woods or areas with tall grass, consider adding extra protection such as long sleeves, a hat, and gloves. In the woods it’s been so bad that we’ve been tucking our pants into our socks and shirts into our gloves

-Off makes a version of their deep woods bug spray that has tick protection. In my experience this doesn’t seem to deter them completely, especially the larger deer ticks, but it helps. It also does a good job helping you avoid mosquito and biting flies.

Even with these precautions, it is possible to pick up ticks. It takes at least 24 hours for a tick to embed itself into your skin to be able to spread disease, so checking yourself for ticks at least once a day is essential if you’ve been working outside. They like to hide in your hair, between toes, behind/in ears, and in other hard to reach places. Even with the precautions I’ve been taking, I’ve found two ticks so far this year but didn’t get bit because I was looking for them.

Also take precautions against ticks coming in to your home. Most houses aren’t humid enough for ticks to survive more than a day or two, but dog ticks can live and breed indoors and other kinds can survive longer if the humidity is higher. If you have pets, they can act as a vehicle to allow ticks to infest your home. Some things that you can do to prevent ticks from hitching a ride into your house are:

-If you’ve been outside, change clothes either before you come in or change as soon as you get in the house

-Run clothes that have been worn outside through the washer and more importantly, the dryer as soon as possible. Most ticks can survive soap and water, but the dryer will overheat and overdry them within 15 minutes or so

-Regularly inspect your pets for ticks even if they don’t go outside, and make sure they are getting a monthly flea and tick treatment.

-Some essential oils such as citrus, mint, and cinnamon drive away ticks. D Earth can also be used to dry them out. If you need a pet/furniture/people/carpet friendly way of deterring ticks, those are some options.

If prevention doesn’t work and you get bit, remove the tick with a pair of tweezers or a special tick removal tool. Twist the tick rather than pulling at it, and resist the urge to crush the tick with your fingers because that’s another way they can spread disease. Clean the bite with rubbing alcohol and save the tick in a plastic bag or other sealed container. If within a few days of getting the bite you develop a fever or a rash around the bite, see a doctor and take the tick with you for testing. The impact of many tickborne illnesses can be reduced by getting treatment quickly, so err on the side of caution if you don’t feel well after a tick bite.

For more information about preventing and treating tick bites, check out this article by WebMd

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Celebrate the 4th Safely

I know a lot of us are trying to take advantage of the weather and will be working all day today, but just in case you or members of your family are able to take a break and celebrate I thought I’d post a few articles on some 4th of July safety topics.


Fireworks are probably one of the biggest hazards of the 4th. They can be a lot of fun, but they are basically small explosives so it’s important to handle them carefully. If you’re planning on including fireworks in your celebration, check out these safety tips from the national safety council.


Another common problem people encounter while celebrating the 4th is food borne illness. With hot temperatures and many people eating outside, it’s easy for perishable foods like potato salad or cream-based dips to go bad, plus with so many people involved in prep it can be hard to know if everything was prepared safely in the first place. Having a thermometer handy can be a big help since it can be hard to tell just by looking if foods are being kept at the proper temperature. Check out the article by Food Safety News for more tips!


A third major safety concern on the 4th is water. A lot of people use the time off to hit the pool, go to the beach, or even take a boat out on the water. Large crowds make being in the water even more hazardous than usual. Also, given how the weather has been lately be extra careful about water quality if you’re swimming in a natural body of water, especially if it’s a pond or creek at home that isn’t being tested. There have already been several people this year who have gotten seriously ill from bacteria and toxic algae in the water. Here is an extensive article by the Red Cross that sums up some of key tips for staying safe in the water. The second article is from Country Living and gives some advice on how to tell if a pond is safe for swimming.


Finally, a lot of the country is supposed to have temperatures in the 90’s today. While heat can be a problem throughout the summer, I think people have a tendency to ignore some of the signs of heat-related illness and don’t pay as much attention to using sunblock when they’re having fun. Here is a list of things from Love to Know to keep in mind when you’re spending time out in the sun:

Hope everyone gets to take at least a little bit of a break today and remember to celebrate safely!