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!