National Farm Safety & Health

September 22, 2016 

National Farm Safety and Health Week

            This kind of slipped up on me and I missed doing an article about it last week. However, the need and importance is the same a week later. I need to credit my colleagues at Iowa State University for much of the content of this article.

            The National Farm Safety and Health Week was September 18 to 24. This year’s theme is “Farm Safety…A Legacy to be Proud Of.” This is the 73rd observance of the National Farm Safety and Health Week that was originally declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

            Roosevelt signed the first proclamation for farm safety in 1944 because of the high injury rate in agriculture that was impacting the nation’s production efforts during World War II. Nearly 75 years later, agriculture still ranks as the most dangerous industry in the United States.

            Today, safety professionals use this week to remind those working within the industry to be careful. Agriculture has the highest annual death rates per 100,000 workers in the nation, surpassing all the other industries including mining, construction, and manufacturing. This high death rate is why you must use safe farming practices during harvest and throughout the year.

            Nebraska Extension wants to remind farmers to focus their attention on potential slips and falls, which can be linked to serious injuries. Slips and falls are a major cause of injuries throughout the year, but especially common around machinery, equipment, and structures during harvest.

            Here are simple steps to follow that can help farmers avoid slips and falls:

Always consider the height from which you work.

Before climbing on farm machine or structures, scrape mud or manure off of shoes.

Keep the work platform, foot plate, and steps free of debris.

Use shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles and heels.

Dismount equipment only when it has come to a complete stop.


            Tops of combines are 12 to 14 feet off the ground and the operator's platform is usually 6 to 8 feet above the ground. Ladders on grain bins can exceed 30 feet. A fall to the ground or onto other machinery can result in back injuries, serious sprains, broken bones or even death.

            Secondary hazards on work or walk surfaces increases the possibility of falls. Mud, grease, or loose grain can make work surfaces slippery. Although getting caught in or under the machine grabs headlines, a far more common harvest injury is falling off combines or bins. Use handrails, keep steps and platforms clean, and use good footwear with slip-resistant soles.

            Use the grab bars or railings when mounting and dismounting. It is important when mounting and dismounting to keep three points of contact: two hand holds and one foot, or two feet and one hand hold at all times. This three-point connection reduces the potential of a fall. Also, avoid carrying items in your hands while climbing ladders or equipment steps.

            Harvest safety is a major consideration to avoid injury and machine downtime. Don’t attempt to clear a head or auger unless power is disengaged and make sure to mechanically block the head before getting under it.

            Maintain lighting and marking including red tail and amber warning lights and reflective tape as well as SMV emblems. Take a periodic break to clean debris for fire safety, check adjustments, and maintain a sharp mental focus. Two ABC-type fire extinguishers are recommended, a smaller five-pound model in the cab and a larger 20-lb model at ground level. 

            Know the 911 emergency addresses for each field location. Have a disk hooked up to a tractor and readily available when you start harvest. Also, when you start harvesting a field, start on the downwind side in case of a field fire, the wind will direct the fire away from the unharvested portion of the field. Weather and other factors beyond your control create challenges at harvest. Accept the effects of adverse weather and adjust your equipment, speed and attitude accordingly.

            I want to wish everyone a safe harvest and a little cooperation from Mother Nature.