Harvest season is in full swing. This time of year, safety is a must and I am painfully reminded this week why we should take safety seriously.
Just this week we lost another Ohio farmer, from Darke County, due to a grain bin incident. You have read my articles many times over the years and even though it may appear I am “Preaching to the choir”, I can’t help but to tell you all to think, take your time, and be cautious at all times during this busy season we call HARVEST!
This time of year many farmers spend a lot of time at their grain storage facility filling bins with corn and soybeans. Throughout Ohio, on-farm grain storage facilities are being upgraded and newly constructed storage facilities are getting larger and larger.
Taken from some information I found on the Ohio State University website for Agriculture Safety and Health Program, common injuries associated with grain handling include slips, trips and falls; blunt trauma incidents; sprains / strains; entanglement; engulfment; and injuries due to fatigue.
Below are safety considerations for your grain storage facility when working this fall and winter:
• Keep equipment properly maintained. Recognize, respect, and avoid equipment hazards such as cut points, wrap points, pinch points, burn points, and stored energy. Severe injuries from equipment hazards can happen in a fraction of a second.
• Emergency contact information and procedures should be available and verified. Make sure cell phones are adequately charged and have signal before starting potentially dangerous work.
• Notify family members or coworkers before starting potentially dangerous work and tell them when you expect to finish. If you are supposed to be done in three hours, someone can check on you if you are late.
• Know where overhead power lines are so they can be avoided when moving equipment or using a portable auger.
• Ensure there is adequate lighting at the facility when working in low light conditions to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
• Have a fire extinguisher handy and charged. A fire in its beginning stages can many times be extinguished by quick response by someone with a fire extinguisher.
• Use a N-95 respirator when unloading grain or working in grain bins. Grain dust and molds can cause serious respiratory health issues.
• Never enter a grain bin while grain handling components, such as augers, are in operation
• All equipment shutoffs should be labeled in the electrical panel and at switches. This makes it easier to shut off specific equipment in the event of an emergency.
• Lockout/tagout procedures should be developed for all equipment. When working on the grain bin, lockout/tagout keeps equipment from being unexpectedly started.
• Bridged grain or grain lining the wall of the bin is dangerous and should be handled at a distance. Use a pole to break up bridged grain and try pounding on the outside of the bin to dislodged grain that clings to bin walls.
• If the grain is out of condition, poisonous gases may accumulate. If you suspect that the air inside the bin is not safe, do not try to enter without first sampling the air.
• If you must enter the bin use a body harness, lifeline and station a person at the entry point to monitor the person in the bin.
• Ask your local fire department if they would like a tour of your facility. If needed, it will help them respond more efficiently to your farm.
Another fact with farming as it relates to agriculture safety is we are not getting any younger. We now average almost 60 years of age for farmers. For older farmers, a physically and mentally demanding harvest season can present a variety of health and safety issues, including a higher risk of injury due to diminished sensory systems.
Many farmers may not be aware of changes in their sensory systems since they gradually diminish over time. Some common sensory areas that diminish over time include: Reaction time, Balance, Musculoskeletal system, Respiratory system, Hearing, and Vision.
To reduce the risk of injury because of limited sensory systems follow these simple guidelines:
• Minimize machine or background noise.
• Get regular vision exams.
• Use sufficient lighting in darkness and reduce glare in extreme brightness.
• Avoid crossing between dim areas and brightly lit areas.
• Exercise caution when working in extreme hot or cold temperatures.
• Be alert and focus on the task at hand, because sense of touch can diminish with age.
• Keep walking and working surfaces dry and free from obstacles or debris.
• Maintain three points of contact when mounting or dismounting equipment (1 hand / 2 feet)(2 hands / 1 foot)
• Anticipate changes in ground elevation or rough terrain.
• When increased efforts are needed, ask for help or use mechanical means.
• Organize work areas to avoid reaching above shoulder level or from an awkward position.
• Minimize repetitive tasks and avoid prolonged standing.
• Make an effort to minimize vibration when using tools or equipment.
• Be cautious of physically demanding activities that are not routinely performed.
• Set a pace and take breaks while performing work tasks over a long period of time.
• Use Personal Protective Equipment when appropriate (ear plugs, safety glasses, gloves, etc.).
My final thought : Don’t lie to yourself about farm safety. It is real and an accident can happen at any moment.
During this busy time I encourage all of you and your families to take the extra precautions and a little more time to be safe.
Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for 28 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.