Fall is a favorite time of year for many, and for those in our agricultural community it is a very busy time as well. The days are getting shorter, the air will be getting crisper soon (hopefully), and with that we will begin to see more and more activity in the fields. While farming can be fun it is important for those who work in the industry as well as those who live around it, to remember that it can be a hazardous occupation as well.
According to recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, farm related deaths (22.2 per 100,000 workers in 2015) outnumber even those in the fields of transportation and mining. Harvest season can be particularly dangerous due the number of hours farmers will spend operating heavy equipment and transporting that equipment along with heavy loads of grain on roadways. They will also be dealing with a decreased amount of daylight to get their work done, all while sharing the roadways with motorists who may not be aware of potential dangers around them.
I would urge any motorists reading this to please, slow down when you see farm equipment traveling ahead of you, it is likely travelling very slowly, and you will reach it sooner than you think. Be patient and wait for a good opportunity to pass, the tractor or combine operator may or may not be able to see you clearly, but they will likely accommodate you when the opportunity presents itself. Lastly, drive defensively and be aware of other motorists on the road who may not be as patient as you are.
For farmers who are using the roads, remember to check and make sure that your SMV (slow moving vehicle) signs are installed and visible. Also, use flashing lights when on the road, be aware of the traffic around you, and use proper signals to let motorists know your intentions. Always remain well aware of the presence and location of dangerous farm equipment such as PTO shafts and auger’s, and make sure everyone around is also trained and aware of their danger. Lastly, as the days do get shorter, be aware of your fatigue level, as evening is the most likely time for a farm accident to occur. Remember, as tempting as finishing that field or hauling that last load may be, it is never worth a serious injury or worse.
For more information on farm safety, I would encourage you to check out the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety website at: http://www.necasag.org/ Here you can view several informative videos and webinars on: tractor safety, farmer health, youth safety, confined spaces in agriculture, rural roadway safety, and much more.
I hope everyone has a smooth and plentiful harvest this season, and please be safe out there!