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Safeguard home base

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Norbert and Delbert Soltwedel know that farming together for 40 years takes teamwork. The Shumway, Illinois, brothers, along with their wives, Linda and Bev, raised their families across the road from each other. Delbert's son, David, joined the operation in 2005. Norbert's son, Kraig, and his wife, Jodie, also are involved in the farm. Together, they grow 2,300 acres of corn, soybeans, and winter wheat. David feeds 600 head of hogs on contract.

The Soltwedels also know that safety is a team effort. “We believe we're safety-conscious,” Norbert says. “But with so many family members working together, communication sometimes is lacking. We have a lot of buildings and equipment. We probably overlook hazards and safety procedures.”

Thanks to Operation FarmSafe, the Soltwedels have taken steps to safeguard the next generation. Norbert read an article about Operation FarmSafe in Successful Farming magazine and decided to apply for a grant. The Soltwedels are one of four families selected to receive a free Certified Safe Farm (CSF) review and $2,500 in safety improvements funded by Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance.

Kraig and Jodie have three children: Alivia, 6, Addyson, 5, and Ayden, 3. David and his wife, Kristine, are parents of five: Rhett, 11, Shelby, 6, Sierra, 4, Sydney, 3, and Wyatt, 4 months.

“Our other grandchildren love to visit,” Norbert says. “They have inquisitive minds. We need to provide safeguards.”

The Soltwedels have one employee, Jake Herrmann, who is in charge of maintenance. They also employ short- and long-term international student guest trainees.

Safety walk-through

The review was conducted by LaMar Grafft, rural safety and health specialist at Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH). Developed by I-CASH, the review is used by safety and health organizations in other states. It's confidential and unrelated to any regulatory agency.

Following the July review, the Soltwedels set to work building a new fence around the manure pit ($550). They began replacing SMV emblems, adding bin and silo ladder guards to prevent the kids from climbing, and repairing electrical cords. Because of the grant, they no longer use a block of wood as a jack. They purchased a new jack stand support for $45.

Grafft red-tagged a 4320 John Deere tractor. It lacked a ROPS and seat belt, master PTO shield, bypass starter cover, SMV, and left side mirror. “Tractor rollovers account for 20% to 25% of all farm fatalities,” he says. “If a tractor is used on a road or in a field, it should have a ROPS.”

The Soltwedels bought three fire extinguishers for $330 and recharged older ones. They ordered a PTO shield ($290) for the liquid manure spreader and built a handrail for the stairway to the overhead shop storage. “We put two ground fault circuit interrupters in the shop, and we'll add breakers,” David says.

The Soltwedels replaced the PTO shields on the Massey Ferguson 1100 ($105), the Legend 2615 bat wing mower, New Idea manure spreader, and Bush Hog.

Equipment lighting and markings were updated. “My rule of thumb is that if an implement blocks lights on a tractor, is wider than a tractor, or extends more than 20 feet behind a tractor, it needs lighting and markings,” Grafft says.

He reinforced the use of earplugs on tractors without cabs and in the swine building, and of two-strap dust masks in the swine building and bins. “Keep a supply in a plastic bin or toolbox near where it's needed,” he says. He suggested first aid kits in the shop and tractor, and one by the sprayer and combine.

“The greatest benefits of a CSF review are being aware of safety and putting a priority on eliminating hazards,” Norbert says. Grafft agrees. “I'm impressed with their changes. They've made things safer,” he says. “But it's too easy to be lulled into complacency. Safety is a never-ending job.”

Learn more

I-CASH | 319/335-4438 | www.publichealth.uiowa.edu/icas

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Safety Win-Win for Winns

Kay and Mike Winn raise hogs, hay, hair sheep, and horses in Northampton County, North Carolina. “Our roots in American agriculture trace to the 1620s, but our focus is on the family's future in farming,” she says. “In 2011, we welcomed our first grandson to the farm.”

Kay is the caregiver for 1-year-old Winn, while Winn's mom and Kay and Mike's daughter, Carra Lane, works as the production manager at the Winns' contract wean-to-feeder pig nursery. Carra also operates Lane Hay, a high-quality forage business with her husband, Trevor Lane. She teaches horseback riding and trains horses at her business, TLC Stables.

Kay says when she and her husband moved to their farm near Rich Square almost 20 years ago, their children were in middle and high school.

“This farm lacks safety accommodations required to raise a small child around heavy equipment, bodies of water, large animals, and many other risks,” she says. “I'm trying to get the farm up to speed for my grandson's safety.”

Julia Storm and Robin Tutor, North Carolina State University Agromedicine Institute, and Tim Britton, Johnston County Extension specialist, visited the Winns to conduct the Certified Safe Farm (CSF) review.

Following the CSF review, the Winns' first order of business was constructing a fence around the play area and the vegetable garden. They also added sections of barrier fencing set between the house and outbuildings. “We had to completely cut off child access to the driveway and surrounding fields,” Kay says.

The Winns also purchased a pool alarm, a storage cabinet where they can lock up hazardous yard and garden chemicals, as well as pediatric pads for their Automatic External Defibrillator.

“I've always figured that a large part of my job is to ferret out danger points, then figure out ways to eliminate them,” Kay says. “Keeping up with safety through the years helped us get a passing score on our CSF assessment. Many grandparents watch their grandchildren on the farm. If Winn's going to be here, I've got to keep him safe.”

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