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.
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:
I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather and it sounds like much of the Midwest might get another bomb cyclone in the next few days. Depending on where you live this could mean snow, freezing rain, or thunderstorms with high winds a lot of precipitation. This couldn’t have come at a worse time since we’re well into calving seasons and wanting to start planning.
The article I’m sharing today is from Beef Magazine, and it gives some tips on being prepared for the bad weather. High on the list is doing as much work in advance as you can to get cows who are about due to calve moved and doing as much feed prep as you are able to. Minimizing the amount of time spent outside when the weather is bad is the best approach, so if you’re in the path of the storm, try to get as much advanced preparation in as you can. For those who are getting snow and ice, also make sure that you have sand and salt ready for walkways. There were a number of reports of people being injured by falling on ice added to the database over the winter and a few minutes of salting/sanding can make a big difference in preventing falls. This might also be a good time to have a check-in plan in place so that something goes wrong out in the field and you’re not able to call for help other people know that there is a problem and come find you sooner rather than later. Make sure at least one other person knows where you will be working and when you expect to check in, and be sure to contact that person if your plan changes. Stay safe out there!
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.
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: