Be Safe on Your Acreage
No matter what the season and what you’re doing on your acreage, farm safety isn’t always top of mind. New projects around the place, plans for the fields or gardens, maybe even a fantasy of buying a new tractor. Can’t you hear the outdoors calling you?
But when we’re picturing lush green fields or frolicking foals and calves, we’re most likely just enjoying some sweet daydreams before we start planning our seasonal work. It’s easy to forget that agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries out there. Farm workers, and even folks with small acreages who love to manage their land, are at very high risk for serious or fatal injuries.
The Whole Family is Involved
Because living on the land generally involves everyone in the household, family members are also at risk for injuries. Kids want to ride on tractors, ATVs, and other vehicles around the farm, and they need to know the safety rules.
ATVs: Safety Precautions Apply
An ATV can be incredibly useful around the farm or acreage. But riding an ATV can come with its own safety needs. Even working around your property, be sure to wear your ATV helmet, long sleeved shirts and pants, gloves, and boots.
ATVs are most often built for only single riders. Drivers enjoy a large seat, which gives them room to move. But add in another body on the front seat, and the extra weight alters the ATV’s center of gravity. And that means greater risk of tipping. (We do carry ATVs for two riders.)
ATV’s are intended for off-road use, although some parts of Colorado allow them on public paved roads. The wide tires with low air pressure help the machine grab rough, bumpy, and often steep road surfaces. An ATV won’t work well on a paved road: the road surface is too smooth and the tires may cause the ATV to stop too quickly.
Farm machinery causes more fatalities on U.S. farms than anything else. Tractor wrecks top the list, with most deaths occurring from roll-over accidents. Kids are often allowed to ride on tractors, but that puts them at huge risk for being thrown or bounced from a machine. And an excited kid on your tractor can also bump controls or distract the driver.
Think the ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structure) will help keep an extra rider safe? Sorry, no. The ROPS is there only to protect the operator. And that’s true of tractor cabs, too. A rider can easily be thrown from the cab, or crushed if the tractor overturns.
Power Take-Off (PTO)Safety
The PTO transfers power from the tractor to another implement and is very dangerous despite the shields provided by the manufacturer. PTOs turn very rapidly and accidents and deaths are apt to happen when someone steps over a PTO. It’s a good habit to always walk around the PTO (even when not running). And always dress in snug clothing, tie your long hair back, and don’t wear jewelry when operating a tractor.
Road Trips on Your Tractor
You often see tractors out on rural roads during planting and harvest seasons. Tractor operators always need to be aware of other vehicles, and take special precautions to prevent collisions. Remember, too, that the tractor’s center of gravity may be altered when pulling implements or driving on sloped surfaces. These factors can influence how easily your tractor can overturn.
For best safety, conduct a pre-ride inspection on the tractor and any implements you may be towing before every time you head out on a public roadway.
- Make sure you have plenty of fuel.
- Check that all lights and signals work properly.
- Adjust your mirrors as needed.
- Be sure to have a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem on display.
Farm Animals Can Cause Injury
Enjoy working with your livestock? Just don’t forget that thousands of farm injuries and several deaths occur every year that involve animals on the farm.
We know that animals have difficulty judging distances, and that their extremely sensitive hearing may cause them to be frightened by load noises or high frequency sounds. And, of course, they are very protective of their young. Easily spooked, they become frightened and skittish. Be alert around livestock, and teach your kids to be alert, too.
Make all the cow methane jokes you want, but gases from animal waste can be dangerous to both children and adults. Confined spaces such as manure pits, silos and grain bins, can hold toxic gases – hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and methane – that pose serious hazards to humans and animals. Poisonous or toxic reactions, suffocation from oxygen depletion, or methane/oxygen explosions are the main dangers.
Be Alert Around Your Chemicals
Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and fertilizers can enter the body in numerous ways, from breathing to accidental contact with the eyes. However, 97% of chemical spraying exposure happens through contact with the skin.
Every chemical container label has specific requirements for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) based on the ingredients in the chemical. Always check the pesticide label before use, and see what PPE is required by law.
It’s a fact that many folks don’t bother with PPE. And if you’re feeling rushed, you may just want to jump off your tractor to try to fix a problem immediately. But don’t. Whether you’re wearing PPE or not, shut off the sprayer, drive ahead into dry plants, and then get out to fix the problem. If you step out into the recently sprayed plants, you’ll be touching and breathing some pretty toxic stuff without your safety gear. And if you’re suited up, you’ll still be collecting poisons on your protective clothing.
Keep The Kids Away from Chemicals
It’s extremely important to lock all chemicals away from young children. Heed all warnings on chemical labels, and store all chemicals in original containers. Anyone exposed to farm chemicals should seek immediate medical attention.
And if you bring your used PPE garments into the house for washing, be sure to keep them away from furniture, floors or other areas in your home. Bring them straight to the laundry room and wash separately in hot water. It’s also a good idea to rinse your washer with warm water before you do your regular laundry loads.
Living on the land is a special lifestyle that brings joy and a sense of pride. Just remember to be safe!