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Safety Last Makes Accidents First


by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, September 24, 2021

Telling Your Story

We are gearing up for harvest time, and hopefully you will have a bin-buster year. For those filling silos and chopping, corn went from ready to dry in a big hurry, and that means push, push, push.

But when isn't harvest a push-hard couple of months?

It's the tail end of National Farm Safety Week. This is a good opportunity to take inventory of details that can help push through a safe harvest.

Are there PTO guards that need attention? Are chains and belts in good working order? Do you have back-up parts for things that chronically need replacement at the worst possible time? Get the extra set(s) before the rush hits head on. You don't need the added aggravation of extra stress along with the urgency of harvest. Yes, mental health is an important part of your safety and wellness, too.

What happens when that chain breaks, the weather is perfect, and a replacement is two days out? Heads explode. Yup. I've seen it. There is anger, frustration, and a lot of shouting and stomping, slamming and banging that goes on. Who is making wise safety decisions in that state of mind? Or wise decisions about anything for that matter? No one, that's who. That is when accident risk goes up. The pressure is already on. Stress comes in the back door to stir up trouble. Anger stirs the pot and, together, the three make poor bedfellows.

Hearing protection is another consideration. Yes, you want to listen for the right sounds so you can quickly react when the wrong sounds happen. I get it. But how many older farmers do you know who wear hearing aides or should be wearing them? Just let that thought marinate for a while. And if that thought just happens to help you save what's left of your hearing, no need to thank me.

Are confined spaces squeezing in on you? Look for hazards and prepare early. Better yet, refresh yourself on confined spaced safety protocols and prepare now. Don't let that time/stress combination put you in a life and death situation. Confined space tragedies happen every year during harvest. We hear of them in the news and our ag new sources. Keep yourself from being that news headline.

Respirators are often considered part of the pesticide application process but can also be a huge benefit in the dusty conditions around harvest time.

Joints and muscles protest from the repetitive work of farming, and during the extra-long days ahead, will scream even louder. Have you considered five minutes of stretching exercise before firing the equipment for the day? (It's OK to hide behind the truck or combine if you don't want anyone seeing you flex and contort.) It helps get the blood circulating and awakens the body and mind. Frequently stretch and briefly rest any of the body areas that are causing trouble throughout the day. Hot and cold packs can be helpful. The general rule of thumb is heat for muscle stiffness and pain, cold for inflammation and acute pain. A few minutes of heating pad in the morning along with some stretching will get sore muscles moving. Dull the pain and reduce swelling at night with some ice.

Remember, I'm no doctor, so if you are on a specific regime of hot and cold that varies from these rules of thumb, go with what your real health care provider says!

Above all, have a blessed harvest. Enjoy the outdoors, enjoy the temperate weather, and enjoy the blessings of another shot at that perfect grow/harvest cycle.

Bev Berens is a mom to 4-H and FFA members in Michigan. Do you have a story to share? Email her at uphillfarm494@yahoo.com.

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