It’s that time of the summer where everyone is putting up hay, so I thought I’d share some baling safety tips. Whether you do small squares, big squares, round bales, or silage it can be a particularly dangerous job. The article from MyFarmLife.com is mostly about avoiding machinery hazards like spinning PTO shafts, stored energy in flywheels, and rollover hazards while moving bales.
I’d also like to add a few suggestions specific to baling and unloading small squares that have come up in my personal experience. Having spent many hours loading and unloading hay, and having experienced several injuries in the process here are a few things to look out for:
-Climbing on and off of moving wagons while loading is particularly risky. There are lots of hidden bumps and holes in fields so it’s easy to fall or to twist an ankle or knee, plus there is a risk of being run over if you fall. Stopping when someone needs to get on and off a wagon takes less than a minute and it’s much safer.
-If you’re using a thrower, don’t have someone in the wagon trying to stack. The few people I know that have tried this have all been knocked over by falling bales multiple times and it’s really easy to get hurt doing it.
-Take precautions against overheating when baling and unloading in hot weather. Heat exhaustion is the most common problem I’ve seen people have when handling hay. Be especially cautious with newer employees who might not be used to working in the heat. Encourage everyone to take breaks as needed rather than trying to tough it out, and consider waiting until later in the afternoon to bale if it’s particularly hot out.
-Keep your wagons in good condition and make sure there are no holes or gaps in the floor of the wagon. Putting your foot through the floor or tripping on a gap between boards while you’re carrying a bale or two is an easy way to get hurt.
-Bale elevators are another hazard that a lot of baling safety guides seem to miss. The teeth that carry the bales can be sharp, especially if they’ve worn down over time. The drive belt can be a hazard too, especially if the guard is missing. It’s important to keep some space between where the bottom of the elevator sits and where people are walking or standing to load bales. If you’re using the elevator on an incline, be sure to anchor the top and the bottom of the elevator so that it doesn’t slide down. Try to minimize the distance the bales have to fall as they come off the end, and don’t walk under or climb on the elevator when it’s running.
-Make sure that you are using protective equipment when baling. I have a sound meter app on my phone and the sound level of our tractor and baler was about 95 decibels, which is enough to cause damage after only a few hours of exposure. Sun exposure is another problem. Even if you don’t burn normally, being out in the sun for hours in an open field can cause burns and skin damage. You may also want to consider wearing a mask and/or eye protection, especially if you have allergies or are baling hay that is particularly dusty or potentially moldy. The worst experience I’ve had farming was an allergic reaction in my eyes from baling rained-on hay that was starting to mold. My corneas swelled and I had to spend almost a week in a dark room because I was so sensitive to light. Being aware of the environmental conditions and taking the appropriate precautions can save you a lot of trouble later on!
Those are some of the main hazards that come to mind when I think of the ways people I know have been injured while handling hay. Stay safe out there, and if I think of anything else I’ll be sure to add it to the list!