MDA encourages safety and awareness this upcoming harvest season

Guest Editorial


As farmers across Minnesota ramp up fall harvest activity, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds everyone of possible hazards of the season.

Federal and state statistics show farming is one of the most dangerous professions. In 2013, the latest year reported, 17 of the 69 work-related deaths in the state were in the ag industry, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

“Farmers are compressing a great amount of work into a short amount of time and are competing against the elements,” said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

“Shortcuts are not the answer. Farmers must be mindful to use equipment properly and take time to ensure all safety guidelines and measures are followed.”

Roadways may be just as dangerous for producers and non-farmers alike, as equipment is transported and grain is hauled from fields.

Statistics from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety show that of the more than 190,000 people involved in crashes in Minnesota in 2014, 119 people were involved in a crash with a tractor or other farm equipment.

Those crashes resulted in 12 injuries and one death.

According to Frederickson, ensuring an injury-free fall is everyone’s responsibility.

“While traveling through rural areas, all drivers need to pay attention to and respect farm equipment that may be on the roads.”

In addition to road safety, the MDA offers a wide range of farm safety topics this season, including child safety on the farm, proper livestock and grain handling and guidelines for reducing physical stress.

Safety tips are available on the MDA’s Facebook page at mnagriculture.


Road safety

For people living or driving through rural areas:

•Be on the lookout for farm equipment.

•Slow down when encountering slow-moving vehicles.

•Wait for a safe place to pass.

•Avoid using a cell phone while driving.


For farmers

•Make yourself easy to be seen by using your lights and flashers.

•Remember it is Minnesota law to use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph.

•An escort vehicle is required when moving large equipment that extends over the center line.


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Physical stresses

Get some sleep Make sure to get enough sleep and rest to refresh the mind and body.  If you are spending long hours in a combine or tractor, be sure to take short breaks often.

Eat right, eat often When the busy season rolls around, we fill our bodies with fast food and other high-fat, low nutrition junk. Worse yet, we sometimes don’t eat at all. It’s worth the time to wake up a few minutes earlier to eat a quick breakfast and pack a nutritious lunch. Make sure to include a couple of servings of fruits and vegetables to munch on during the day. Limit your intake of fatty meats, candy bars and sugar.

Don’t rush It may take an extra moment or two to walk down every step or double-check a piece of equipment. But that extra time may be a lifesaver. Don’t cut corners when it comes to safety.

Learn to accept the things you cannot change Look for the best in people and situations. Remember, no one is perfect. Realize that fiscal and time pressure challenges due to weather, crop prices, and market demand are beyond your control.


Child safety

•Inspect your farm on a regular basis for hazards that can injure children wandering on your farm. Correct obvious hazards immediately.

•Children who are physically able to be involved in farm work should be assigned age-appropriate tasks and continually trained to perform them. They should also be constantly supervised.

•Equip all barns, farm shops, chemical storage areas, livestock pens, etc. with latches that can be locked or secured so that children cannot enter.

•Always turn equipment off, lower hydraulics and remove the key before leaving equipment unattended.

•Do not expose children to hazards. Never carry them on tractors and equipment or invite them into the farm shop, livestock barns, grain bins, etc.


Equipment safety

•Pay attention to all safety information. Read operator's manuals and warning decals.

•Inspect the equipment and correct any hazards before operating.

•Identify hazardous areas on equipment and make sure you stay away from moving parts. Beware of pinch points, shear points, wrap points, pull-in areas, thrown objects, crush points, stored energy hazards and freewheeling parts.

•Shut down equipment, turn off the engine, remove key and wait for moving parts to stop before dismounting equipment.

•Keep bystanders and others away from equipment operation area. Do not allow "extra riders," especially children.


Grain handling safety

•Lock entrances to grain handling areas to keep bystanders and children out.

•Install ladders inside bins.

•Do not enter grain bins that are being loaded or unloaded. Flowing grain can trap and suffocate you in seconds.

•If it is necessary to enter a bin, shut off and lock out power before entering. Use a safety harness and safety line. Have several people available outside the bin to lift entrant out in case of an emergency.

•Wear proper dust-filtering respirators when working in and around grain handling areas. High amounts of dust and molds could be present and are extremely dangerous.


Livestock handling safety

•Label livestock handling areas to warn away visitors.

•Design livestock pens and handling facilities using recommended plans.

•All facilities should be designed to allow workers easy access to and exit from animals.

•Keep children and bystanders out of livestock handling areas.

•Animals can be unpredictable. Be sure you understand some of the common instincts of animals.

A strong territorial instinct is common.

Changes in lighting or shadows can excite or spook them.

Separation from other animals can cause unpredictable behavior.

Sudden or loud noises can frighten animals.

Some types of livestock, such as beef cattle, swine and dairy cattle, are colorblind and have poor depth perception. This causes them to be sensitive to contrasts in light, movement and noises.

Cattle and horses can see everything around them except directly behind their hindquarters.



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