Safety Tips For Around The Farm

Tractors and Critters and Toxins, Oh My!

It’s that time again, when everyone is starting to dream of Spring. New projects around the place, plans for the fields or gardens, maybe even fantasies of new tractors. Don’t you hear the outdoors calling you as the days get longer and the temperatures begin to moderate?

But as we long for the days in the sun and fresh air, we’re most likely not thinking about safety. It’s easy to forget that as much as we enjoy it, agriculture is among the most hazardous industries. Farm workers, and even rural lifestylers who love to manage their acreages, are at high risk for serious or fatal injuries. Here’s some safety tips to think about before the farming season begins.

The Whole Family is Involved

Because living on the land generally involves everyone in the household, family members are also at risk for injuries. Kids can be especially vulnerable, because they to love to ride on tractors and other vehicles around the farm. They need to know the safety rules before they run out the door to play.

Tractor Safety Is Key

Farm machinery is the leading source of fatalities on U.S. farms, with tractors logging the highest number of deaths. Most of those are from roll-over accidents.

But safe practices and an awareness of risks can certainly help minimize your chance of injury. Adults can usually learn to be safe and assess the possible problems they may encounter as they work.

But kids can’t. It may be hard to say “no” when the kids want to hop on the tractor with you, but it’s not safe. Unfortunately, a rider on the lap, on a loader bucket, drawbar or fender is at huge risk of being thrown or bounced from the machine. And a kid on your tractor can also bump controls or distract you while driving.

And if you’re assuming the ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structure) will help out if there’s a rider on the machine with you, you’re out of luck. The ROPS is there only to protect the operator. And even a tractor cab is designed to offer the operator greater safety. A rider can easily be thrown from the cab, or crushed if the tractor overturns.

Power Take-Off (PTO)Safety

Another dangerous place on the tractor is the PTO. The PTO transfers power from the tractor to another implement. It turns very rapidly, and while tractor manufacturers provide shields for PTO drivelines, accidents and deaths happen when someone steps over a PTO. Always walk around the PTO (even when not running) and be sure to wear snug clothing, tie your long hair back, and don’t wear jewelry when operating a tractor.

Taking It on the Road

During planting and harvest seasons, you often see tractors out on rural roads. If you’re operating a tractor on a highway, you must always be aware of the other vehicles and take special precautions to prevent collisions.

Furthermore, the tractor’s center of gravity may be altered when pulling implements or driving on sloped surfaces. This, of course, can influence how easily the tractor may overturn. There’s nothing like an excess of caution when driving your tractor down the highway.

Before you travel the public roads, conduct a pre-ride inspection on the tractor and any implements you may be towing.

Your checklist:

  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel
  • Check that all lights and signals work properly
  • Adjust your mirrors as needed
  • Be sure to have a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem on display

While large tractors tend to cause more injuries, even smaller tractors need to be handled with care and attention.

Farm Animals Can Cause Injury

It’s not something we often think of, but it turns out that thousands of farm injuries and several deaths occur every year that involve animals on the farm.

Animals have difficulty judging distances and have extremely sensitive hearing that may cause them to be frightened by load noises and high frequency sounds. And, of course, they are very protective of their young. They can be easily spooked, becoming frightened and skittish. Be alert around livestock, and teach your kids how to do the same.

And while there are plenty of jokes about cows and methane, did you know that gases from animal waste can be dangerous to both children and adults? In confined spaces such as manure pits, silos and grain bins, toxic gases can pose serious hazards to humans and animals. Manure pits gases include hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and methane.

The primary health hazards of these gases are toxic or poisonous reactions, suffocation from oxygen depletion, or explosions when methane and oxygen mix. Following stringent safety rules can save your skin, your lungs… or your life.

Be Savvy About Chemicals

Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and fertilizers are all dangerous chemicals. While they can enter the body in numerous ways, from breathing to accidental contact with the eyes, 97% of chemical spraying exposure happens through contact with the skin.

Always check the pesticide label before use, and see what PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is required by law. Each container label has specific requirements for PPE, based on the ingredients in the chemical.

Sure, it can be a nuisance to clamber into your PPE. And if you’re in a hurry and wearing an PPE, you may still just want to jump off your tractor to try to fix a problem immediately. Always shut off the sprayer, drive ahead into dry plants, and then get out to fix the problem. Because if you step out into the recently sprayed plants, you’ll be touching and breathing some pretty toxic stuff.

Chemicals in the Barn or Shed

It’s extremely important to lock all chemicals away from young children, heed all warnings on chemical labels, and store all chemicals in original containers. If you or a family member is exposed, seek immediate medical attention.

Be sure, too, to keep your used PPE clothing away from furniture, floors or other areas in your home. Bring it straight to the laundry room and wash it in hot water separately from everything else. It’s a good idea to rinse your washer with warm water before you do your regular laundry loads.

Living on the land is a lifestyle that brings joy, income and a sense of pride to those who do it. Just remember to do it safely!



Nate Meyette