Safety Tech: The Safety Zone Calf Catcher and Wisconsin Extension DIY Calf Catcher

Came across this video today and thought I’d share.  The name of this device is the Safety Zone calf catcher.  It’s designed to attach to an ATV. It helps make it easier to catch calves for vaccinating and to keep you safe from mom in the process.  My dad actually improvised a similar device years ago by curving a wire panel fence into a circle so he could carry it with him and put it over the calf.  This device is a big improvement though because it reduces the risk of falling while catching the calf, has a much sturdier design, and has the inner gate to help hold the calf still. Costing around $2,000, it is more expensive than a foot hook or a wire panel fence, but it’s a huge improvement in safety and convenience.

Click here to see the Safety Zone website.

When I did a quick search to look for alternate products, I also came across a website from the Wisconsin extension that shows a similar homemade device that can mount to the back of a small tractor. The website includes a set of plans for building your own. The plans don’t include the inner gate that the Safety Zone version has, but it would be easy enough to add one if you want.  They didn’t mention how much it cost to build their prototype, but if you have the time to build your own, you might be able to save some money.

Click here to see the Wisconsin extension’s calf catcher

Click here to see plans for the Wisconsin extension calf catcher.

Case Study: Lone Worker Dies after Fall from ATV

oday I’d like to present a case study involving a lone worker and a fall from an ATV.  The case comes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an independent organization that promotes worker safety in the United Kingdom. Their website includes a few dozen agricultural injury case studies (click here to see their ag case studies).  I chose this case to take a look at ATV safety and some of the dangers of working alone on the farm.

The Situation: A 53 year old gamekeeper severely injured his pelvis by falling from an ATV. He survived the initial injury, but was unable to call for help. It took 52 hours for someone to notice that he was missing, and he was found dead 200 yards from the scene of the initial injury.(click here to see original case description)

Risks Involved:  ATV Operation, working alone, lack of communication device/check in plan.

Risk Mitigation Strategies:  There are two main issues involved here, which are the risks of operating an ATV and the risks of working alone.  Since this was a fatal case, they weren’t able to provide much of a description of what caused the initial injury. There are a lot of things that can contribute to ATV injuries: terrain, excessive speed, improper loading, mechanical issues, training issues etc. I found an article by OSHA that summarizes some of the main hazards of ATV use and how to avoid them. Click here to see it.

The other, and in this case possibly the greater issue is that he was working alone in an isolated area, had no way to call for help, and there was no check in plan to prompt a search when he didn’t come back. This incident took place in 2004, so cellphones weren’t as universal as they are now.  However having a cell phone doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to call for help. Phone issues like low battery or poor signal can prevent you from making a call and if your phone breaks or if you’re unconscious as a result of the incident you won’t be able to call either.  That’s why the most important thing you can do is to avoid working alone whenever possible, and if you do work alone, let someone know where you’ll be and what time you expect to be back.  There are also a quite a few smartphone apps that can help protect lone workers. The systems use GPS to keep track of worker locations and can set up an emergency call button on the users’ phones. Some of them can also be set up to prompt users to check in by pushing a button on their phone at certain times, and call for help if the button isn’t pushed. Click here to see the top 10 lone worker apps.

The bottom line:  If you own an ATV, make sure that you and anyone else who drives it knows and follows all safety procedures. Try to avoid working alone as much as possible.  If you do work alone, let someone know where you will be and when you expect to be back. Cell phones can be a useful tool when working alone, but they can fail so make sure they’re not your only line of protection.

Winter Weather Hazards: Slips, Trips and Falls

I think pretty much everyone has had the experience of slipping and falling on ice.  When I did my pilot study for this project, at least 5 of the 27 injury reports I collected had to do with slipping on ice or snow. Slipping on icy surfaces can be more dangerous on the farm than it is in other places.  If you combine a slip on the ice with carrying heavy loads, using tools, being near running equipment, working with tools,  or working with large animals, the potential for severe injuries goes up.

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The best thing you can do to prevent slips and falls is to make sure that the areas where people walk and work are cleared of ice and snow  and to use sand or salt for extra grip on surfaces. Be particularly careful about keeping stairways and elevated work surfaces clear.  One neat idea I’ve seen for salting and sanding is to use one of those lawn and garden  broadcast fertilizer spreaders to spread salt and sand. It makes the job go faster over large areas, and results in an even distribution. Putting shovels and buckets of salt or sand near where they need to be used can be a reminder to clear and salt walkways and  makes it more convenient to do the job.

If you have to walk on a slick surface, boots with thicker treads or ice cleats over boots can also help you get a grip .Using short steps with your center like a penguin can also help prevent slips and falls.

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The best way to avoid fall-related injuries is to prevent the fall from happening.  However, if you do feel yourself falling there are a couple of things you can do to minimize injuries.  Don’t catch yourself with your arms because it’s easy to break your wrist that way.  Try to bend your knees as much as possible so that the distance you fall is shorter.  Tilt your head forward, touching your chin to your chest and curl the top part of you’re body to prevent your head from hitting the ground.  Hit the ground butt first then rock backwards. Once your back has hit the ground you can use your arms to stop your momentum if you need to.  I’ve been doing aikido and jujitsu for a few years now and the single most useful thing I’ve learned is how to fall backwards.It takes a lot of practice to build up enough muscle memory to automatically fall this though, and it won’t prevent all injuries, so once again the best thing you can do is prevent slips and falls by keeping walkways clear and salted.




Winter Storm Checklist

Since a lot of us have been experiencing winter storms this week, I thought I’d share some information about winter weather hazards and prevention.  I found a group of articles on Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health’s website.  The main one I wanted to highlight is their farm winter storm checklist (click here to see it in a new tab) but they have a bunch of other good winter articles on things like preventing pipe damage, dealing with ice on roofs, and using windbreaks to protect fields and livestock.  Click here to see their full list of articles.  Stay safe out there!


Winter Weather Hazards: Frostbite, Hypothermia, Dehydration, Heart Attack

Since a lot of us have been experiencing winter storms this week, I thought I’d share some information about winter weather hazards.  This  video gives a good summary of preventing frostbite and hypothermia, the symptoms of each, and what to do if you or someone around you experiences symptoms.

The video covers frostbite and hypothermia pretty thoroughly, but there are a few other common winter health hazards that it doesn’t mention.

Dehydration: Most people pay close attention to drinking enough water in summer, but dehydration can occur in winter too. Because the air is so dry, you loose water when you breathe and warm layers can cause you to sweat as much as you would in warmer weather.  Because the air is colder, you’re also less likely to feel thirsty, so make sure you’re drinking water regularly even if you don’t feel like it!Click here for a more detailed article on winter dehydration.

Heart Attacks While Shoveling Snow: I couldn’t find any information on whether or not farmers (who are more used to physical labor in all weathers) have the same increased risk of heart attacks while shoveling as the general population, but it’s worth mentioning that performing physical labor in cold weather can increase the risk of heart attack.  This is because of a combination of blood vessels contracting due to the cold and an increase of blood pressure due to physical exertion.  If you’re shoveling snow, or doing any other physically demanding job in the cold weather, you might want to  take more frequent breaks or break the task into smaller loads/pieces if possible. This is especially true if you already have heart or blood pressure issues. Signs of a heart attack include lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath, or if you have tightness or burning in chest, neck, arms or back. If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 right away!  Click here to see an article about winter heart attacks.

Nominate Your Fire Department for Grain Bin Safety Equipment (by Nationwide)

In honor of Grain Bin Safety Week (Feb 18-24) Nationwide insurance is hosting it’s 5th  annual “Nominate Your Fire Department” contest.  Local fire departments can be nominated through the contest web page on Nationwide’s website (Click here for contest info and nomination form).

Each winning fire department receives a grain rescue tube and a 6 hour training session worth between $3,000 and $5,000.  Entries for the contest will be accepted between January 1, 2018 and April 30, 2018.  A detailed description of the contest rules and prizes can be found here: Click here to view full contest rules


The Hierarchy of Controls: A General Strategy for Injury Prevention

Today’s post is going to be more theoretical than usual, but I’d like to share a quick summary of the overall approach to injury prevention that is used in engineering, public health, manufacturing and other industries.  It’s called the hierarchy of controls.  I’m sharing it because for me, it’s been a useful way to think about injury prevention, and because a lot of the specific prevention strategies I’m posting were made with this hierarchy in mind.

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The hierarchy of controls ranks different ways of dealing with a hazard from most effective to least effective.

The most effective way of addressing a hazard is to eliminate it it completely.  If the hazard is gone, no one can get hurt by it.  One example I can think of from my own experience is when we got rid of a bull that was starting to charge at whoever was feeding him.

Getting rid of a hazard isn’t always a reasonable solution. The next best thing is substitution, or replacing something that is more hazardous with something that is less hazardous.  For example, substituting a tractor with ROPS for one without greatly reduces the risk for many jobs.

If substitution isn’t possible either, the third option is engineering controls, or coming up with designs that limit a person’s interaction with the hazard. The special equipment used for storing and applying anhydrous ammonia are good examples of engineering controls.

If it’s not possible to eliminate, substitute, or engineer away the hazard, the next level of defense is administrative controls.  These are things like laws, or rules that you have on your own farm.  Administrative controls aren’t very effective because the person has to decide whether to follow the rules or not.

The least effective way of dealing with a hazard is personal protective equipment, such as dust masks, gloves, goggles, steel toed boots, earplugs, etc. Protective equipment is considered the least effective for a few reasons. Like with administrative controls, people have to decide to decide to use the equipment. For protective equipment to work, it has to be the right type for the job and it must be worn correctly (this is more difficult than you’d think). Protective equipment can  make jobs more difficult or create new hazards if it makes it difficult to move, hear, see, or if they can get tangled in other equipment.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t wear protective equipment, but it should be a backup plan or extra protection instead of your main strategy for avoiding injury.

I hope that  this general overview of the hierarchy of controls was useful. For me it’s been a helpful way to think about injury prevention.  If you’d like to learn about injury prevention strategies in more detail, here is a link to the Department of Labor’s guide to injury prevention:

Department of Labor Injury Prevention Guide



Case Study from the UK: Fall from a Loader Bucket

Today I’d like to present a case study involving a fall from a loader bucket.  The case comes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an independent organization that promotes worker safety in the United Kingdom. Their website includes a few dozen agricultural injury case studies (click here to see their ag case studies).  I chose to take a closer look at the case involving a fall from a loader bucket because problems with overhead piping, heating, and lighting systems seem to be more common in winter, and because I’ve seen at least one near-fall in a similar situation.

The Situation: A farmer was standing in the bucket of a loader tractor performing an overhead pipe repair. The bucket of the loader was about 6 1/2 feet in the air. The pipe slipped and fell on one of the loader’s levers, tipping the bucket. The farmer fell and hit his head on a pallet, resulting in head injuries. (click here to see original case)

Risks Involved:  Elevated workspace, improper work platform,  no guards or railings on work platform, controls of platform underneath work area,

Risk Mitigation Strategies:  The key issue here is that a loader bucket isn’t a good work platform.  It lacks railings, the surface is often slick and slanted, the controls are at a distance from the person in the bucket, and the controls are vulnerable to falling objects as seen in this case.  There are a variety of work platforms that would have been appropriate for this situation, especially since the height requirement was only about 6 feet.  The original analysis of the case study recommends a platform fitted to a vertical mast forklift or on a boom (like a cherry picker) but  I think a portable scaffold would work just as well and would be much less expensive.  Depending on the tools and space needed to fix the pipe, a warehouse ladder/rolling staircase or traditional ladder might also have worked.   The key is to choose a work platform with a clean level working surface that has enough space for you and your tools,  and making sure that the platform can’t move while you are working.  A platform with a railing is ideal because even if a slip or fall occurs, it is less likely that you will fall to a lower level.

The bottom line: Elevated work is a regular occurrence on the farm.  Adjustable height rolling scaffolds, rolling staircases, and safer ladders have come down in price (many are under $200) and a wide variety of designs are available to suit different needs. The materials have improved considerably too, so many of the new designs are lighter, stronger, and longer-lasting than the wooden versions you may be familiar with. Thinking about the kinds of elevated work you do and investing in an elevated work platform that fits your needs could save you from having to deal with an injury later on.

Video: Rollover Protection and Seat Belts

Today I’d like to share a video of a demo created by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Home Safety Program that demonstrates why seat belts and rollover protection structures(ROPS) are needed to protect the driver during a rollover. Tractor rollover is still the leading cause of occupational fatalities for farmers. The number of tractors with ROPS has increased substantially because ROPS have been required on new tractors since 1985, but the rate of rollover fatalities has not decreased significantly.  Part of the reason they haven’t decreased is that farmers either aren’t using ROPS or because they’re not using seat belts to keep them within the protected area. This demo shows a tractor without a cab, but a seat belt is necessary for cab-type ROPS to be effective too because it’s possible to be ejected from the cab (especially if the windows are open or break during a rollover) and to be seriously injured if you’re not secure within the cab. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health (JASH) found that of 19 cases of tractor rollover where the operator was using ROPS and a seat belt, 18 escaped with no injuries or minor injuries and 1  received outpatient care. Of the 41 cases of rollover with ROPS and no seatbelt, 12   operators required outpatient care or were hospitalized.  (Source).

Another thing that this video shows is that wearing a seatbelt on a tractor without ROPS may increase the risk of serious injury because it holds the operator in the crush zone. The same JASH study found that two of the three operators who were wearing seat belts on tractors without ROPS during a rollover suffered a permanent disability.  Out of 442 cases of rollover with no ROPS and no seatbelt, 203 operators suffered an injury requiring medical treatment,  including 12 cases resulting in disability and 24 deaths.  Having ROPS is by far safer than going without, but be aware that using a seat belt on a tractor without ROPS might further increase the risk of serious injury.

In short, wearing a seat belt and having ROPS installed drastically reduces your risk of being seriously or fatally injured on the farm. Many of us already have tractors with ROPS, so from there wearing a seat belt is a small change that drastically reduces your risk.

Have a tractor without ROPS? Check out the National ROPS Rebate Program here: Link to Natonal ROPS Rebate Program

Here is a link to another summary article by the University of Illinois Extension Program about ROPS and preventing rollovers: Link to Illinois Extension ROPS/Rollover prevention article

Welcome to the Agricultural Self-Report System!

Hello everyone! Welcome to the agricultural self-report system blog!  In this introductory article, I’d like to tell you a little bit about the types of articles I plan on posting. There are three main types of posts I plan on doing: reblogged content, original content, and system updates.  Here is a quick summary of each:

Reblogged content:  One of my main goals for this blog is to consolidate and share some of the existing agricultural safety and health information that is available online.  There are a lot of great informational articles, programs, and research already available, but I think people tend miss out on them because they’re spread out across many different websites. I hope that consolidating some of the information that is already available here will make it easier to find.

Original content: I’m also planning on creating some original content on a variety of ag safety and health topics.  I’d like to fill in the gaps on topics that aren’t covered in existing articles, and share some things that my colleagues and classmates have been working on.

System Updates:  These articles will present updates and results from the agricultural self-report system.  This will include things like progress reports on data collection, trends I’m seeing in the dataset, case studies, updates to the website, and other topics related to the self-report system.

I’m also open to suggestions for articles, so if there is a particular topic you’d like to see covered, feel free to Contact Us  and let us know!  Thank you for reading and I look forward to blogging for you!