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.
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!
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!
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.
Here is part 2 of the respiratory protection video series. This one is about getting the right fit when you use respiratory protection. For cartridge masks in particular, it can be tricky to find one that fits your face correctly. You may need to try several brands to find a style and size that makes a good seal!
Here is the first of a 3 part video series on respiratory protection to go with today’s ag safety awareness week theme. It explains the different types of mask to use for different jobs. Depending on what you’re working with, those paper dust masks might provide little or no protection!