Monthly Safety Blast – Healthy Harvest

When it comes to the fall harvest, there is a lot to be done. A sense of urgency can lead to more
injuries and incidents. This month’s article includes 6 tips to keep family and workers safe on the farm.

Pre-planning for harvest season is especially paramount when it comes to preventing life-altering incidents.

Step 1: Have An Emergency Plan and Worker Checklist

It is vital to have a clear communication plan in case of an emergency. When there is an emergency
situation, this plan can help ensure that everyone knows how to respond. This plan can save time and
potentially somebody’s life. The last thing you need when you are in the thick of harvest season is
broken-down machinery. Being short on time can cause one to take short-cuts which can lead to
incidents and injury. Assign each family member or worker a task to help things run smoothly.

Step 2: Know Where Your Children Are

Every three days a child dies in an agriculture-related incident.  It is imperative that children are not allowed to ride on or play near machinery or equipment. Designate a safe play area and make sure they are not hiding near or under machinery. Protect the most important thing you will ever raise. Not sure what tasks are appropriate for children on the farm? Click here.

Step 3: Train Equipment Users

Most young workers have good physical abilities, but may lack the experience, knowledge,
judgment and patience that make for consistently safe job performance. Do not allow horseplay,
show-off behavior or dangerous equipment and vehicle operation. Make sure all equipment is
maintained properly and that safety guards and features are in place and functional.
An incident with machinery will cost you far more than a few minutes of training. Make sure that
anyone using machinery knows how to operate it and can be trusted. It can be tempting to throw
an inexperienced worker on a tractor but if you or they are not confident in their ability to operate
it safely, it is not worth the risk. Lack of training is dangerous to anyone involved.

Step 4: When You Are Fatigued, Stop Working

Incidents occur when workers are tired and distracted. It can be a challenge to not let yourself
push through during harvest season. Tired workers take short-cuts and safety is compromised.
Extra coffee and energy drinks will only make you more tired if you are already fatigued. It is
especially important not to drive while tired!

Step 5: Check On Machinery Marking and Lighting

In the U.S., the number one cause of fatal occupational injuries is highway transportation
crashes (CDC, 2011 in MMWR). AgFF workers experience substantially higher
transportation-related injury rates compared to other workers. Additionally, all five states (AR,
LA, NM, OK, TX) in the SW Ag Center region were among those with the highest or second
highest rates (CDC, 2011). Double-check that your reflective materials and SMV signage are
displayed and clean. That bright orange triangle on the back of equipment is a familiar sight and
so important. It gives farmers a chance to warn the traffic around them that they are moving
slowly. Driving on rural roads can pose a hazard for tractors especially when other drivers do not
pay attention. Make sure that your machinery has the appropriate marking and lighting it needs.
Being seen means being safe! Click here to learn more about machinery safety.

Step 6: Learn To Balance Stress

Life in agriculture is already stressful, but harvest season is increasingly so. Make sure you take
a moment during your day or week to check in with yourself and your workers. Mental wellness
is a conversation worth having. Chronic stress impacts one’s ability to think clearly and make
rational decisions. Stress hormones negatively impact our brain’s capability to evaluate
alternative options and communicate appropriately with family, friends, and employees. Stress
ultimately affects our ability to work safely and can lead to chronic health conditions. During
busy times, we need to be extra alert and feel our best. We can do this by eating balanced
healthy meals, getting enough sleep and not spending time on our phones at night, drinking
enough water with electrolytes and not consuming too much caffeine. Learn more about
balancing stress here.

Like what you read? Find more health and safety blasts here.

This article is adapted from Rural Mutual’s Harvest Safety Tips.