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8 ways to keep farm families safe

Keeping your family safe is the first priority on your farm. Here are some things you can do right now to prevent injuries and illness.

1. Stock up on safety tools.

First, make sure you have enough fire extinguishers and first aid supplies on hand, and check to make sure they haven’t expired, says Tom Karsky, Extension safety specialist at the University of Idaho. Keep a first aid kit in every vehicle and a fire extinguisher with every piece of equipment, and make sure everyone knows how to use them properly.

2. Stay safe on the tractor.

Use a roll-over protective structure and a seat belt. Research shows that when used together, ROPS and seatbelts are 98-percent effective in preventing tractor-related injuries and death.

Before operating a tractor on a particular piece of ground, familiarize yourself with the terrain. Walk the area first, and use caution on slopes and turns. Also, keep your hitches low and always on the drawbar to help keep the tractor from flipping over.

3. Care for chemicals.

Pesticides and chemicals should be stored in a dry place and out of reach of children.

4. Shut it off.

Make sure your family knows where the power switches are for all types of equipment and how to shut it down in case of an emergency. 

5. Keep things in good working order.

“Things in the shop, such as tools and cords, should be in good shape,” he says. Replace frayed cords and damaged tools that could spark a fire or cause injury. He also recommends checking all the guards on machinery and replacing if damaged.

6. Protect your lungs.

Mold spores, gases, and other organic dusts are harmful to breathe in and are abundant on working farms. Carolyn Sheridan, clinical director for AgriSafe, says these particles can settle deep inside the lungs and cause long-term chronic lung disease “or an acute episode where someone may have fever, chills, nausea, and shortness of breath. People feel like they have the flu,” Sheridan says.

The first step in defending yourself is to wear a NIOSH-approved mask, says Sheridan. “That means the research has been done to show that this mask will protect you from the hazard. For most exposures, look for an N-95 printed somewhere on the box or on the mask. That tells you it’s 95% efficient.”

7. Keep the air clean.

Prevent mold growth in the first place by harvesting and storing grain at the recommended moisture content. Follow the labels on all chemicals and avoid working in tight spaces with limited air circulation.

8. Break it down.

If this seems like an overwhelming list, break it down into manageable tasks. “Prioritize things and work on the ones that need the most attention,” Karsky says. “If there’s a slow period when everyone happens to be around, you can do a short little walk-around.” You can also cover one part of the operation – such as the shop – first and then another part next month."

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