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Farm and Agricultural Safety

farm and ag safety photo of field

We are a community of farmers, ranchers and growers. Farm safety is a huge focus and concern for HOMEBANK as many of us have farms or grew up on farms and ranches. The risk of accidents has increased in recent years due to the surge of production volume and use of machinery and chemicals on farms. A recent study published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America, with 574 fatalities, or an equivalent of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.

“We share your concern and focus on protecting your family and workers,” states Joe Thomas, HOMEBANK Chairman and CEO. “I personally grew up on a farm and had my fair share of near accidents. I am fortunate to be able to look back and learn from these mistakes, but most accidents can be prevented with proper planning and procedures.”

Farm safety is all about awareness and prevention. Fall harvest time is one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons, so we want to help ensure our community has the resources and information needed to prevent many of the accidents that can have devastating effects on farming families and communities.

Here is a review of farm safety tips and resources you can use to establish a healthy and productive work environment for all. For an expanded list of safety information, be sure to review the resources provided at the end of this article.

Farm Safety for All

It is everyone’s responsibility to follow established safety guidelines and procedures that you establish for your farm. Here is a list of general safety guidelines that you may find helpful.

Awareness & Safety

Start with awareness for you, your family, and your workers.

  • Get plenty of rest to avoid fatigue and keep mental focus, especially when working with machinery. Take frequent breaks when needed to recharge and refresh.
  • Ensure dressing appropriately by avoiding loose clothing, untied shoelaces, flowing long hair, and wearing protective gear (gloves, respirators, etc.) when handling chemicals and pesticides.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption. Even a single drink can affect your ability to operate machinery.
  • Distribute and review a Farm Safety Guide (see below for more details) that will make everyone accountable for the safety of people and animals.

Livestock Safety

Animal awareness and safety are just as important. Here are some best practices in handling livestock and other animals.

  • Be sure all gates and fences are kept in good condition.
  • Maintain cattle crushes, cattle-handling units and holding pens.
  • Freshly calved cows and heifers can be particularly dangerous, so make sure to handle them with great care.
  • Never put an untrained handler at risk with cattle.
  • Remove aggressive animals from the herd.
  • Always plan your escape route when working with livestock and work in pairs to cull aggressive or difficult cattle as soon as possible.
  • Any animal can be dangerous, so be sure to constantly review their mood.

Equipment Safety

Farm and agricultural equipment is becoming more sophisticated and necessary, especially for large-scale production. Keep these equipment safety tips and procedures in mind.

  • Always ensure that vehicles and equipment are in safe working condition before each use, and get repairs done immediately.
  • Ensure that all mirrors, indicators, lights, brakes, steering, and wipers are working properly, especially if the vehicle will be on public roads.
  • Make sure that all machinery operators receive proper training first, and conduct follow up training as needed to verify continued safe practices.
  • Remember, some machines have more than one source of power so isolate electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic systems before you start any repairs or maintenance.
  • Wait for a hot engine to cool before refueling your tractor.
  • When working with a Power Take Off, or PTO, on your farm, always disengage the PTO, turn off the engine and remove the keys before getting off the tractor.
  • Always turn off the power take-off shaft and stop the engine before trying to free a blockage.
  • Identify blind spots or corners where an accident could occur and put control measures in place.

Chemical and Pesticide Safety

It is very common to use chemicals and pesticides on a farm so know what you are working with and how to handle them safely.

  • Train workers in safe practices and emergency procedures in handling chemicals and pesticides.
  • Wear protective gloves, clothing, masks, and eye wear when handling chemicals and pesticides.
  • Provide readily accessible washing facilities.
  • Take precautions in unventilated grain silos and manure pits where methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide can form and suffocate or poison workers, or even explode.
  • Clearly label dangerous chemicals and pesticides and store them in a secure area that is made of non-flammable material.

Farm Safety for Children

There is an increased risk for children on a farm as they tend to be more “free spirited” and need extra attention to ensure they are following farm safety rules. In addition to the safety guidelines suggested above, here are some farm safety tips for children.

  • Designate a safe and secure play area for children.
  • Prevent children from playing in or around farmyards and livestock.
  • Prevent children under 13 years from riding on tractors and farm machinery.
  • Always keep children away when mixing slurry.
  • Ensure your slurry lagoon is securely fenced.
  • Make sure everyone washes their hands before eating and drinking.
  • Make sure all family members know what to do in an emergency.

Publish and Use a Farm Safety Guide

A great way to document and follow farm safety procedures is to publish a Farm Safety Guide that you can use to train family, workers, visitors, and any other people engaged in the industry. What you include in the guide depends on your specific farm, but it should be able to:

  • Identify dangerous farming activities and the risks of someone becoming injured.
  • Explain the safety measures you have put in place to protect everyone.
  • Describe how safety will be managed and secured on the farm.

More Resources for Farm and Agricultural Safety

Our list is not exhaustive, so be sure to explore and use these further resources to help prepare and evaluate your farm safety policies and procedures.