Farm Safety: Best Practices Before, During and After Harvest

Harvest brings plenty of angst — whether it’s a flash drought that revs up your schedule, unusual maturity variability, or more crop in than you can store. It’s also the time when many farm accidents happen. Regardless of where you are with your crop, it’s essential to keep farm safety top of mind.

Here are some key safety tips from ag industry experts (including the National Ag Safety Database). These tips may seem obvious, but it never hurts to remind yourself of basic safety tenets and to rely on tools designed to reduce risk — particularly with the stress and fatigue harvest brings. 

Farm safety starts with the operator

  • Operators should wear close-fitting clothes, protective footwear, and have easy access to the appropriate gear to safeguard against injury and hazardous materials.
  • Experience is critical. Farm accidents are high among youth in particular, with more than half of deaths for kids age 15 to 24 due to accidents. 
  • Assign work based on experience. Track the hours your crew is working to ensure that everyone is alert. With Granular Business, you can easily chart out who is assigned to what task, detail roles and responsibilities, track individual hours on the job, and reprioritize work as needed to avoid any mix-ups.

Keep your equipment in peak shape

  • Get all replacement parts installed and machines in peak working condition before hitting the field. 
  • Schedule daily maintenance and include double-checks on guards, shields and other protective devices. Nearly 50 percent of farm fatalities are due to a lack of maintenance. 
  • ALWAYS shut off equipment and stow the key when you leave the driver’s seat.
  • Drought conditions call for extra fire safety. Make sure every machine is equipped with a working fire extinguisher.

Respect the power of your harvester, combine or corn picker

  • Assign harvester work to your most experienced crew and remember that size, high center of gravity, and steering require extra consideration.
  • Stick to the manufacturer manual when it comes to changing combine headers, and always lock hydraulic equipment before working on it.
  • Keep the ladder and platform clear to prevent falls.
  • Know your combine’s specific capacity limits. 
  • To clear a plug, first, try reversing the header. If that fails, stop the combine, shut off the engine, secure the key, and then remove the plug using the appropriate tools. NEVER put hands near combine mechanisms.
  • Ensure your yield monitor is adjusted and in peak condition. A broken yield monitor won’t stop harvest but it will keep you from collecting invaluable yield data. You can easily track inventory (including the total weight of your crop and acres harvested) using Granular Business, either through the mobile app, automatic import through the John Deere Operations Center, or manual data import from your grain cart, truck scale or elevator software systems.

Stay out of the grain cart

  • Make zero entry your first priority. 
  • BEFORE you start harvest, make sure your grain cart is measuring weight accurately before you calibrate your cart with a scale. Tracking your weight in real time removes the temptation to do in-person “guess-timates.” You can track grain cart data with the cart scales or by using the Granular Business mobile app.
  • If you’re using a grain auger, always make sure it has a complete, cage-type shield and use a partner to move it into position.

Track inventory and keep storage risks at bay

It only takes 4 seconds to get entrapped in grain, and 22 seconds to be fully engulfed. From 2017 to 2019, there was a 65 percent increase in grain entrapments, many accidents resulting from farmers getting inside the bin to release clumps or clogs.  In 2019, the number of confined space-related deaths in agriculture exceeded those in mining by two times. 

Your first priority to ensure grain bin safety is zero entry. Avoid in-person checks and rough estimates based on how high your grain sits. Whether your loads go to a customer location or on-farm storage, take advantage of the tools available to track inventory in real time. For example, logging harvest loads with Granular Business allows you to track how much of a given crop you have in your storage locations, and know how much more grain to put in a bin. 

If you have to get in a bin, remember these key safety tips:

  • Lock out and tag out auger power.
  • Ensure oxygen content is at least 19 percent.
  • Any operator entering the bin should wear a full-body harness and be tied off.
  • Remember a bin is a confined space and mandates a minimum two-person team — one person to get in and the second to stay alert and on hand in case of grain entrapment.

Farm safety has improved in the last two decades, thanks to education and training programs, more regulations and safety standards, and, most notably, from engineering and technological developments. But that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. 

Here are two more resources we recommend you check out for more information on farm safety

Find us on twitter and tell us what you’re doing on your farm this year to keep safe.

 Learn more about how Granular Business helps keep farmers safe at harvest

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