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Home > News, Media & Government Relations > Upcoming Events, Meeting & Notices > Farm Safety Reminders from the MDA

2014 Farm Safety and Health Week Tips

As farmers across Minnesota head into the fields to harvest their crops, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is wishing everyone a safe and prosperous season. National Farm Safety and Health Week runs from September 21-27, 2014.

More information can be found on the National Education Center for Agriculture Safety website.  In addition, MDA is offering tips and advice to ensure all Minnesotans stay safe this autumn whether they are harvesting fields or encountering farm equipment on roadways.

Road Safety

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, crashes involving farm vehicles and equipment are rare. However, when they do happen they can result in serious injuries and death. Of the more than 175,000 people involved in crashes in Minnesota in 2011, 149 were involved in a crash with a tractor or other farm equipment. Those accidents resulted in 19 injuries and two deaths.

Minnesota roads see increased farm equipment traffic during harvest, so be prepared and keep the following tips in mind.

For farmers:

  • Make yourself easy for drivers to see by using your lights and flashers;
  • Remember that it is Minnesota law to use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 miles per hour; and
  • Consider using a following vehicle when moving large equipment on roadways, especially at night.

For drivers:

  • When driving on rural roads, expect to see slow-moving farm equipment;
  • Slow down when encountering slow-moving vehicles; and
  • Be patient and wait for a safe place to pass.

Physical Stresses

Farming is physically demanding and long hours can take its toll on our bodies. That physical stress contributes to accidents and even death. It is important for farmers to follow some basic health guidelines when beginning fall field work.

  • 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 - 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 servings of fruits and vegetables to munch on during the day. Limit your intake of 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.

Mental Health

Harvest can be a very stressful time of year for producers, not only physically but mentally. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has several resources available to farmers and their families who may be experiencing mental and financial burdens.

  • The Minnesota Farm Advocates provide one-on-one assistance for farmers who face crisis caused by either a natural disaster or financial problems. Farm Advocates understand the needs of our agricultural families and communities. They are trained and experienced in agricultural lending practices, mediation, lender negotiation, farm programs, crisis counseling, and disaster programs and to recognize the need for legal and/or social services. You can reach a Farm Advocate by calling 1-800-967-2474.
  • The Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network (MFAN) provides mentoring, technical assistance and financial guidance to farm families facing economic hardship. MFAN includes a one-stop hotline (1-877-898-6326) staffed by veteran financial analysts who can help producers facing crises. The network also includes referral services for lenders, farm business management instructors, and extension agents as well as legal advice and crisis counseling.

Child Safety

Minnesota’s farms are great places to raise children and they can also serve as an outdoor classroom for those kids not familiar with agriculture. But the farm can also be a dangerous place for a child if proper safety precautions aren’t taken. Here are some guidelines to protect children on the farm.

  • Check your farm on a regular basis for hazards that can injure children wandering on your farm. Deal with 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

Large and powerful equipment can be found all over a farm. This equipment is also a source of many injuries. By developing a "safety first" attitude and following some basic equipment safety guidelines, you can stay out of harm’s way and set a good example for others.

  • Pay attention to all safety information. Read operator's manual 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.

Grain Handling Safety

Minnesota farmers will be working with large amounts of grain during the harvest season. Automated equipment has made grain handling easy and fast. But, grain storage structures and handling equipment create hazardous work areas. Farmers should make sure they take the proper steps to put safety first to prevent injuries, illnesses and even death.

  • Lock entrances to grain handling areas.
  • 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 lockout 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 could be very dangerous.

Livestock Handling Safety

The following are some animal-handling practices that can be used to keep farm workers, family members and visitors safe.

  • 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.
  • Animal behavior can change suddenly, so 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.