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!
Back in January I made a post about a company called See Her Work, which makes protective equipment designed specifically for women. I ended up buying a pair of their Impact work gloves, and now that I’ve had a chance to use them I thought I would write a review. So far I’ve used the gloves to do some farm work over spring break and to build a dollhouse. I’ll start with a general overview then go into more detail about how the gloves performed in each situation.
When you buy these gloves online, there is a size chart that you can print out in order to find the correct size. I was right on the cutoff line between the medium and large sizes, and bought a medium. When I first got the gloves, I was actually a bit worried I had bought the wrong size because they were super tight, but fortunately after I had worn them a while they loosened up a bit and now fit perfectly. I think they come a bit smaller with the expectation that they’ll stretch out a bit with use, so if you buy them and they’re too small at first don’t worry because they’ll relax a bit within a few hours of wearing them. They’re super comfortable to wear, and the material breathes enough that you don’t wind up with sweat pooling inside of the gloves. At $35 they’re a bit pricey, but not much more so than if you were to buy men’s gloves of a similar quality, so if you’re going to spend the money on a nice pair of work gloves, a few dollars extra to get ones that actually fit properly isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re spending that much on gloves, you also want them to last. The big unknown for me at this point is whether or not they’ll hold up long enough to make the price worthwhile. After several weeks of being worn fairly regularly for farm work and carpentry work they’re still in perfect shape, but it’ll be a while before I know if they hold together in the long run.
performance during farm work:
I wore these gloves while I was home over spring break and they performed really well on the farm. During break I was working 8-10 hour days doing a pretty standard assortment of early spring farm work: feeding bucket calves, hauling grain and silage buckets, moving hay/straw, driving, cleaning the shop, changing oil, changing tires, moving cattle, etc. The gloves performed well overall. The biggest difference I saw in the farm tasks was for carrying buckets and silage baskets. One issue I (and probably a lot of other female farm workers) encounter is that because my fingers are so much smaller, hauling buckets with wire handles can be uncomfortable to downright painful. If you think about it in terms of physics, it makes sense why this happens. I’m carrying the same amount of weight as anyone else, but my fingers are half the size so the pressure where the wire sits is about double. A persistent problem I’ve had wearing nicer men’s gloves is that , the extra reinforcement in the fingers doesn’t sit in the right spot on my fingers, making it pretty much useless for most carrying tasks. Women’s gardening gloves fit better, but offer almost 0 protection from bucket handles. The women’s impact gloves were a great fix for this! The reinforcement on the fingers made a huge difference for buckets and for hay and straw bales. I was even able to move hay bales 2 at a time because my fingers weren’t being pinched as much, which is something I’ve never been able to do before. Again, the jury is out on whether or not they’ll hold up for a whole baling season, but the improvement in comfort is impressive. It was also much easier to do things like unscrew caps to put hydraulic oil in the tractor or pick up tools in the shop, but I’ll expand on that more in the next section. For some of the other tasks that required less hand work like driving or grinding feed the difference was less noticeable although the fact that they were generally more comfortable was appreciated.
performance building a dollhouse:
The second task where I’ve used the gloves was to make dollhouse as a present for someone based off of one of the plans Stanley Tools published back in the 70’s. This project was sort of the opposite side of the spectrum from farm work. It involved a lot of fine detail work with a jigsaw, tiny nails, and using a drill to make pilot holes for most of the door and window openings. I thought the impact gloves performed exceptionally well for this project. Normally I can’t wear gloves at all when I’m working with tools. The fingers of men’s gloves are too big and fumbly to do anything with and gardening gloves have 0 grip to pick up or hold anything. Being able to wear gloves when I’m using power tools and hammering nails is where I noticed the biggest impact on safety, since I wasn’t able to wear anything to protect my hands before. I actually hit my finger at one point when I was putting in a nail at an awkward angle, but my finger didn’t turn black and blue because the armor on the outside of the gloves protected me. The grip on these gloves is probably the most amazing part. I could pick up nails off the ground! I could control the pressure on the trigger of my jigsaw and do fine detail work while wearing gloves! I could even hold a pencil to draw marking lines so I didn’t have to take my gloves on and off all the time as I was working! The gloves also kept the sawdust and glue off of my hands so at the end of the day getting myself cleaned up was a lot easier than it is normally.
In summary, the gloves have performed very well so far. The jury is still out on how well they will hold up in the long run, which is an important factor to consider given the price, but the bottom line is that having work gloves that fit properly made a big difference in my comfort level doing farm work and in safety when using tools. I’m planning on wearing them for baling season this summer and will post an update on how well they hold up to moving thousands of bales of hay. If that goes well I’m probably going to buy a second pair, and maybe a pair of their leather gloves as well.
Here is the link to the original article I wrote back in January:
And here is one to the See Her Work online store:
Continuing the theme of planting safety, I thought I’d share this article from Farm Progress about some of the hazards of seed coatings. These coatings can drastically improve yields, but some of them, especially some of the insecticides, aren’t good for people.
Click here for the Farm Progress article:
The first step of handling coated seeds safely is to make sure you read the labels of every type of seed before you use it. Even if you have used the same type of seed in previous years, it helps to double check to refresh your memory and to make sure nothing has changed. Different coatings require different levels of protection. Some coatings are safe to handle while others can cause short or long term health problems. Reading and following the instructions on the bag will prevent most problems that can come from handling coated seed.
The main way to avoid exposure to seed coatings is to protect yourself with long sleeves, chemical resistant gloves, and a respirator with an R or P type filter. The type of filter matters because each one contains a different set of layers and chemical treatments designed to neutralize a specific set of chemicals in the environment. Wearing a regular dust mask can improve comfort levels, but it won’t be able to filter out the free floating molecules that aren’t stuck to the larger pieces of dust.
Also, be careful how you deal with clothing that has been worn to handle seed. The dust and residue really sticks in clothing, so if you go from the field to the house you’re bringing all of that in with you and then it sticks around in your house. I have a classmate that studies secondary exposures to agricultural chemicals and unless everyone who handles chemicals changes and washes up every time they come in the house, she is able to detect them everywhere, including cooking surfaces, clothing, furniture, kids’ toys…Ideally if you can rinse your gloves outside before you take them off then have a way to change and take a shower before you go back in the house that’s best, but even changing into a different set of clothes in the mudroom or garage has a huge impact on the amount of residue being dragged in. Also, if you don’t do so already, make sure that outdoor clothes get washed separately from indoor clothes. Washing helps a lot, but short of a professional cleaning it’s impossible to get all of the residue out and anything that gets put in the same load winds up with some of the residue.
The other main method of reducing exposure is equipment maintenance. Well-maintained planters reduce the amount of dust that gets rubbed off of the seeds (which can be good for the seed too) and the less you need to stop and make repairs or adjustments, the less you’re exposed.
To go with our series on spring safety I thought I’d share this video from the Ohio Extension. OSU has one of the best ag safety programs out there and they make some great videos, so if you have time I’d recommend browsing through their Youtube channel. There haven’t been any reports in the database related to anhydrous yet, but I know a few people personally who have had close calls over the years.
With anhydrous, personal protective equipment is very important. Several of the close calls I know of easily could have been serious injury if the person involved hadn’t been wearing the proper protective equipment. Investing in goggles or ideally a full-face mask is a good idea since anhydrous can do a lot of damage to eyes very quickly. (As a side note they’re also amazing if you have bad allergies like I do and need to deal with mold or mow ragweed) I’m including a link to one of the nicer kits I found online. It’s a little bit more expensive, but it looks like it comes with several cartridges and a storage case. The case is important because it keeps dust and debris out of the mask and because less air flowing through the cartridge, the longer it will last. If you get a mask that doesn’t come with a case, definitely store it in some kind of container to help make it last as long as possible!
Here is the respirator link:
Also remember that anhydrous is flammable, explosive, and forms corrosive solutions when mixed with water. Carrying several gallons of water is recommended in case a person comes in contact with the anhydrous, but if a fire happens it’s best to leave the area and call in the professionals due to the explosive potential. This is especially true if a fire happens near a storage area.
If you’d like some additional information, I’m including links to a more detailed safety article and to the CDC’s hazardous materials sheet for anhydrous at the bottom of the page. If you can deal with the super technical writing style, the CDC hazard sheets are really great for learning about the hazards of almost any chemical and how to avoid them. Enjoy the video!
Here is the link to a more detailed article:
And here is the link to the CDC hazardous materials sheet:
With planting and mowing season coming up, I thought I’d remind everyone that the National ROPS Rebate Program can help you purchase a rollover protection structure for your tractor at up to 70% off. Even though the number of tractor rollover deaths have decreased since the 1980’s, over 100 farmers are killed in tractor rollovers each year, and hundreds more are injured. According to the National Agricultural Safety Database, using a rollover protection structure with a seat belt is 99.9% effective in preventing death or serious injury during a rollover.
Nowadays most tractor rollovers happen while doing odd jobs like mowing, pulling stumps, yard and ditch work, etc. This is because older, smaller tractors that don’t have rollover protection tend to be used for these tasks. Farmers over the age of 65 and children tend to be at higher risk of experiencing a rollover. This may be in part because older and younger people tend to do the odd jobs that are more prone to rollover, or possibly because they might not have the same ability to respond to the situation as a younger adult driver.
In any case, using a rollover protection structure and seat belt every time you use a tractor is one of the biggest things you can do to prevent you or someone else from dying as a result of farm work. The National ROPS Rebate Program provides a variety of options to help you get rollover protection for all of your tractors. Conversion kits are available even for antique tractors and there are also versions that can fold down if being able to get in a barn with a low ceiling is what is preventing you from getting the last of your tractors updated. Click on the link below to see what options are available in your state!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I came across an article this morning about a company called SeeHerWork that makes heavy duty clothing and personal protective equipment for women, and I’m really excited about it! I’ve experienced many of the problems cited in the article firsthand. I’ve had to choose between wearing women’s gardening gloves that fit but don’t offer enough protection or wearing men’s gloves that protect my hands but get caught in things or fall off (and create a safety hazard). I’ve tried every sewing trick and belt on the planet to try to alter men’s work pants, coveralls, and reflective jackets to fit. Having clothing that fits properly can make a huge difference in being able to work comfortably and safely. I ordered a pair of the impact gloves and will write another post once I get them and have a chance to try them out. I was really happy that they offered a ton of sizes and included a video measurement guide to help you select the right size. Price wise, their stuff seems to be comparable to higher-end men’s work wear, so if the quality is as nice as it seems from the website I think it will be a good investment. They also have plans to start offering pants and coveralls too which I’m really looking forward to. I know most women I’ve done farm work with have had issues with clothing and equipment fitting, so hopefully this will be a good resource!
Click here for the CNN article about SeeHerWork