The Planted Row: Now is a good time for a safety check

Farm Forum

It’s hard to believe that September is almost over. Silage choppers are already in the fields, elevators are trying to move their small grains, and it won’t be too long before the corn and soybean harvests are in full swing. Farms and farm workers will soon be very busy, and the temptation to cut corners will be high. That’s why now is a good time for a safety reminder.

This week, Sept. 21-27, is National Farm Safety and Health Week, and it’s a good time to think of all the possible things that could go wrong and try to keep them from happening. Now, before harvest starts, is a good time to make sure all your equipment is clean and operating smoothly. My guess is that once harvest starts you won’t have time to deal with a combine fire.

Even if you’re very conscientious and your equipment is clean and in tip top shape, trouble can happen at any time. To help prepare, it’s good to make sure first aid kits and fire extinguishers are handy in your equipment. It’s also not a bad idea to make sure everyone working in your fields has basic first aid and CPR training.

My family’s farm has been lucky over the years. I don’t know of anyone who was killed on our farm, but we’ve had our share of accidents and close calls. In a previous column, I’ve already mentioned the time when my leg got caught in a tractor wheel, and it was stopped just in time before I was seriously hurt. There have been plenty of other incidents over the years, though.

When my father was a boy, he was hauling hay one day, and the crew had stacked the hay too high on the trailer to clear a branch hanging over the entrance to the pasture. So they stopped, and someone grabbed an axe and began to chop down the limb. Before long, the head of the axe flew off the handle and landed in my father’s thigh. It missed his femoral artery by millimeters. If the axe had been properly maintained, that never would have happened.

My uncle Phillip has a crooked finger that he can’t straighten. When he was younger, there was an old air compressor that didn’t work quite right, and to start it up, you had to use a stick to crank the flywheel. Well, Phillip was in a hurry and used his hand instead of the stick. His finger got caught between the belt and the flywheel and was severed. The doctors did their best to sew it back on, but it still doesn’t work quite right.

There are plenty more accidents in our family’s history. Phillip and a cousin were nearly killed by an electrical short in the pump for our on-farm diesel tank. My uncle Bob sawed off his thumb with a table saw. For that matter, the index finger on my right hand is slightly deformed due to a table saw accident.

Injuries don’t always happen when you’re working. Sometimes they happen when you’re goofing around. During a rainy day on the farm, my father, then a younger man, was engaged in a strength competition with his brothers and nephews to see who could lift the most disc blades. They called my dad Supergloves because nothing seemed too hard for him as long as he was wearing his work gloves. Well, Supergloves donned his work gloves and bent over to lift 20 stacked disc blades. He won the competition and threw out his back at the same time. That injury continues to bother him to this day.

We’ve been pretty lucky over the years. No one was killed, and all of us still have most of the parts we were born with. However, I know several farmers who weren’t so lucky. I’ve heard it said that luck favors the prepared, so before things get too busy, take a look around and be mindful of potential hazards.