In addition to these general guidelines, there are a couple of extra things to think about specific to farming:
As much as you can, try to prepare for the cold ahead of time to minimize how much time you have to spend outside. Make sure that animals have warm bedding before the cold hits, prepare extra feed, and take care of any urgent work before it gets dangerously cold. A lot of times you can’t avoid going out completely, but cutting down your exposure by even a few minutes or hours by doing extra prep work now can be a big help. Along similar lines, make sure that you have snow cleared and that everything is salted/sanded beforehand. There tends to not be as much snow when it gets super cold, so you might even be able to get away with not shoveling or sanding if you have everything set up beforehand.
Hands and feet are particularly vulnerable to the cold. This is especially true if your boots aren’t big enough to accommodate multiple pair of socks. I’ve actually had good luck buying a second pair of work boots specifically for winter that are a size or two bigger than what I normally wear and wearing 2 or 3 pair of wool socks in them. I also layer my regular gloves with a pair of larger size fleece lined mittens. Also there are a wide assortment single-use and reusable heated liners available to put in shoes and in gloves. I’ve never tried the rechargeable ones, but I’ve used to use the single-use ones and they seemed to help a lot.
Finally, consider taking breaks to thaw out while you’re working, and move to somewhere heated, especially if you’re experiencing shivering, fatigue, or numbness in your face or extremities . It’s better for a job to take longer than usual or be less efficient than usual than it is to end up with hypothermia or frostbite. Stay safe out there!
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
Here is a video from the Irish Farm Journal that interviews a farmer who lost his left leg and severely injured his right leg in a PTO shaft entanglement. PTO shaft injuries are one of the top causes of ag injuries and fatalities after tractor rollover and on-road collisions. The main two factors leading to this injury were loose clothing (his overalls broke and he let one of the straps dangling) and working near a PTO shaft while it was running. Just as a warning some of the descriptions of the incident are pretty graphic and they show what his legs look like now.
I’m also sharing a link to the Pennsylvania Extension’s guide to preventing PTO injuries and to a place that sells easy-access replacement guards that can be pulled back for easier access to grease fittings. Some states have programs that provide free/reduced-cost guards, so be sure to check with your local extension office to see what is available in your area!
The Marshfield Clinic has just released locations and dates for their Child Agricultural Injury Prevention Program. There will be three in-person workshops in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Iowa. The Pennsylvania event takes place in March while the other two will be over the summer. The program is aimed at farmers and local agricultural health groups and covers injury prevention strategies for working and non-working farm children. Each event is limited to about 60 participants, so if you’re interested be sure to sign up soon!
Here is a link to a list of winter safety tips from the University of Maine extension office. A lot of these are good advice for anyone going out in winter weather, not just farmers. Be sure to stay warm and hydrated, make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and watch out for slippery spots!
For me, keeping surfaces clear of ice and well sanded/salted is my number one winter safety tip. So many things that my family and neighbors encounter this time of year basically boil down to slipping and hitting something on the way down. Keeping up with shoveling and salting can be annoying, but it seems like almost every year there are multiple injuries just in the group of people I know that would have been prevented by putting down some sand.
AgrAbility has announced their 2019 training seminars. The seminars will take place January 29th-January 31st. Topics for this year include understanding the risks for older farmers in agriculture, an introduction to the AgrAbility online toolbox, shoulder injuries in agriculture, program updates, farm tool shop safety, and advice for beginning farmers. You can register online using the link below by January 25th if you want to participate in the seminars as they happened, or you can watch this and previous year’s sessions online.
Here is a link to a series of videos put out by the National Farmer’s Union. The videos cover many of the big topics in farm safety: rollover protection, ATV safety, livestock handling, chemicals, and several others. It’s a pretty solid introduction to some of the big issues and the videos are well-made.
I’ve been looking through some of the reports in the database the past few days, and noticed that several involved falls from combine ladders. While the data set is still too small to do much statistical analysis, there are a few things that these cases had in common:
Debris on the ladder: in two cases, mud and ice buildup on the steps were mentioned as the major cause of the fall. Most combine ladders have treads to help prevent falls, but if they’re full of mud or ice they won’t help you. Keeping things clean can be a low priority when it’s harvest and you’re in a hurry, but cleaning out the worst of the buildup if it’s to the point that the treads are getting covered goes a long way towards preventing falls.
Damaged steps or railings: In one case, the fall happened because one of the steps was bent and sloped down. Having a step that is slanted down and is covered in mud makes it really difficult to get a good footing. In another case, the fall happened at a lower step of the ladder and wouldn’t have resulted in an injury except that the railing had a sharp spot where rust had made a hole and it cut the person’s hand on the way down. Again, this comes down to making time to do maintenance and keeping the ladder in good shape
Operator mobility issues: In two cases, the operator’s mobility issues were a contributing factor in the fall. Things like arthritis, knee problems, back problems, and so on can make climbing ladders a lot more dangerous. This is especially true if you’re using an older combine with a rung-type ladder instead of steps. AgrAbility has a lot of great suggestions for modifying steps and ladders for easier access. In their solutions toolbox,click on “tractors and combines” then “equipment added steps and handholds” for a various DIY projects and products that can help make getting in and out of a tractor easier and safer.
Once again I’d like to thank everyone that has contributed reports, and to the couple of people who emailed me articles to post! This project has come a long way in just a few weeks, and I really appreciate how helpful everyone has been!
AgrAbility is hosting a series of webinars in January. The series is geared at beginning farmers, but some of sessions about how to get started on specialty crops like mushrooms or fruit trees might be of interest to anyone looking to expand into new areas. You can find more information and sign up for sessions here: