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Stay safe and sound

CHERYL TEVIS 03/02/2011 @ 11:30am Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

Covering the bases

During the off-season, you're likely to find Ray Boswell busy with machinery maintenance and repairs. “It saves downtime in the long haul,” he says.

Earlier this winter, the Selma, North Carolina, farmer pushed his maintenance schedule into full throttle by enrolling in the Certified Safe Farm (CSF) pilot program.

Boswell, 43, grows 200 acres of tobacco and 1,300 acres of soybeans. He has one full-time employee and about 20 seasonal workers.

“Safety often falls to the bottom of the to-do list,” he says. “I want my employees to have a safe environment. I also have a lot of money tied up in equipment and sheds.”

Johnston County Extension field crops agent Tim Britton and Dan Wells, livestock agent, conducted the CSF survey.

Boswell says the results offered him one obvious takeaway.

“My number one step is to buy more fire extinguishers,” he says. “A neighbor recently had a fire. It could happen to anyone. I have one 300-foot building, and I need the extinguishers in plain sight. I need to make sure the employees can operate one.”

Britton says CSF surveys typically reveal cracked hydraulic hoses, missing shields, lack of roll bars, and inadequate equipment lighting.

“We look closely at hydraulic hoses on all equipment,” he says. “A cracked and brittle hose can release up to 3,000 psi, shooting a stream of hydraulic oil into your hand.”

Overall, Britton says Boswell's score was very high. One shield had been removed from his combine.

“Removing it to replace a belt is aggravating,” Boswell says. “I wish someone would come up with a good safety latch that pulls easily. But the shield is going back on.”

Some hazards turn farmers into a moving target when they take farm equipment on the roads. Boswell travels to 45 farms.

“Driving farm equipment on roads has become more dangerous the past 10 to 15 years,” he says. “Our smaller farms require a lot of trips. If I'm involved in a traffic incident and my equipment doesn't have adequate lighting or signals, I may be the one in trouble.”

Slips, trips, and falls often are tied to habits. When Boswell climbed off his John Deere 6000 sprayer facing forward, Britton told him the grab bars would not help him if he tripped.

“I've done it that way without thinking about it since I was a teenager,” Boswell says.

Britton encourages farmers in the three counties to schedule a CSF survey. Surveys also are available in Alabama, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

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