Accidents can happen to anybody, but most are preventable. Or, as my grandpa said, “Accidents can happen to anybody, but clumsy people have the most.” Please take the time to think before you begin a chore or task. Take that second to think, “What could go wrong?” “Is there something not right here?”
People are people; we all make mistakes. We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day activities we look past the dangers that may be there. We forget things. We do things in the wrong order, trying a short-cut. We do things we just shouldn’t do. We get distracted, and we get overloaded. Sound familiar? Add to that low commodity prices and the stress of the struggle to financially survive, and it can be a recipe for disaster.
My goal in writing this article is to ask you to “Stop, think and then react” – don’t become an accident statistic.
Safety is an ongoing program; please don’t take things for granted. Take the time to review with your family and your employees safe operating procedures. Receive and review safety training for yourself. Look over your equipment before it hits the field. Inspect your daily use equipment.
Are all guards installed? Are there mechanical issues that need attention? Sometimes we, myself included, put off fixing a piece of equipment just to get the job done. Take the time to say to yourself, “What could happen if this is not fixed? I know what is wrong, but if someone else gets in to operate it, could they be injured?”
Now let’s look at a few specific safety issues.
You would think drivers on the highway would be able to see a tractor or another large piece of equipment going down the road; however, distracted driving is common. Just like us, as farmers, taking things for granted, drivers on the road don’t expect slow equipment – so they don’t pay attention.
Let’s look at some numbers. If you are traveling down the road at 45 mph, and a car is traveling at 55 mph, and you are 400 feet apart, it takes 27 seconds for the faster car to catch up to you. Good to know. If you are traveling at 15 mph, and the same car is approaching at 55 mph, the same 400-feet closure time is seven seconds. Better to know.
Why? It takes the average person driving down the road seven seconds to recognize something is different and apply the brakes. By this time, it could be too late to stop. The key is visibility. Catch their attention well before their limited time to react. Make sure all lighting is functioning properly. By the way, if only one hazard warning light is functioning, people think you are turning but don’t know when.
Consider installing rotating beacons on equipment traveling on busy roads. Catch the eye of the drivers so they recognize there is something different on the road. We can’t always control how they drive, but we can control being visible.
Power takeoffs and drivelines
A lot of our equipment is driven by power takeoffs and drivelines. They are an important part of our industry. Over the years, there have been major improvements to keep us safe. Shields and guards have been installed for our protection; however, they don’t do any good if they are broken or missing.
Here is a little fun fact for you: A 3-inch-diameter shaft spinning at 540 rpm results in the outside circumference traveling at 7 feet in one second. A 3-foot shaft traveling at 1,000 rpm is 13.1 feet. So, how tall are you? If it were to catch a piece of clothing, what do you think your chances are of getting away?
When working around power takeoffs and drivelines, be cautious. Before you operate the machine, take a quick inventory of safety precautions. What are you thinking about? Are you concentrating on your task? What are you wearing? Do you have any lose or torn clothing that could become entangled? If you have a hooded sweatshirt, could the strings get caught up in the shaft if you happened to lean over? Who or what else is around who could be injured in its operation? Is it going to run unattended? Be safe; keep all shields and guards installed and in good working order. Be alert.
Fatigue and stress
Too much to do and not enough time. We have probably all been there and, to be perfectly honest, we will be there again. It is important, though, to recognize our own personal limits and manage our family and employee limits. Fatigue can be dangerous. At a certain point, our brain function gets distorted, then accidents and mishaps can happen. Machinery gets damaged, property gets damaged and, unfortunately, injuries can happen.
We need to ask ourselves, “If I push beyond my limits or others’ limits, and an accident occurs, is it really worth it?” We could find ourselves with large medical bills or machinery repair that goes far beyond any profits we would gain from pushing beyond our limits.
These are just a few safety concerns and some of the most common in the farming industry. There are many hazards to watch – pinch points, falling objects, being crushed by a piece of equipment we were working on and did not secure or block up, noxious gases and fumes, large animals, large and angry animals. The list could go on and on.
What I would like you to remember, if nothing else, is to “stop, think and then react.” Be knowledgeable of your equipment and its safety hazards, and be respectful of its power. Review the safe operation procedures and train others. Don’t take things for granted. Update unsafe equipment. Keep an eye on stress and fatigue.
Remember to use day-to-day safety equipment – safety glasses, protective clothing, gloves and hearing protection. Please, think safety first.
Rick Martens is a professional manure applicator with Martens Manurigation. Email Rick Martens.