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Stay safe this harvest season

Jeff Caldwell 10/17/2011 @ 2:12pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Farming's a dangerous business. Especially during times when you're racing the clock, Mother Nature or both, like during harvest. Farmersforthefuture.com member and Cuba City, Wisconsin, farmer Matt knows that well.

"My situation has to deal with plugging the silo during combining corn 2 years ago. I was sitting on top of the blower and digging it out while it was off. I had my brother start it up to get the rest of the stuff out," he says. "Well, one of the wrenches ended up going through the blower and hitting my knee, causing a fracture. Needless to say I have never done that again. Sometimes we are all in a hurry to get things done, but some days we just need to learn to slow down and do things the safe way."

That's just one of the many ways you can be seriously injured -- or worse -- when working around grain storage. Things like Matt's situation happen in an instant; Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist Steve Wettschurack says, when working in a bin with a 12-inch auger for example, it takes just about 30 seconds for the grain level to reach the average person's head. In a minute, the grain level in that situation would likely be over your head.

"It's nearly physically impossible to get out in time, and digging around when trapped causes more grain to flow down," he says.

But, you can't avoid working around grain bins and storage equipment this time of year. So, what can you do to cut down on the dangers out there? To start with, don't work alone.

"When growers are near grain bins, they should consider having one person at the top of the bin who can see everything and one person on the ground to make emergency phone calls if needed," Wettschurack says.

One danger that a lot of farmers have seen this year is downed corn. How's that hazardous to your health? As the amount of downed corn increases, so too does the danger of plugging up the combine or header. If that happens, be sure to take the right precautions when getting things moving properly again.

"This year there is a lot of corn down, which will plug up the corn head," Wettschurack says. "Sometimes it takes a few minutes for everything to come to a complete stop, so make sure all the parts have stopped moving before doing anything with it."

And, even if you're in a hurry when trying to get back to moving in the field, don't neglect the machine's safety equipment. It takes about 5 minutes to replace guards that have to be removed to change frayed belts on augers and other machinery, but it could save your life, Wettschurack adds.

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