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6 ways to make farm safety a priority this spring

During the spring planting season, farmers often rush to get into the fields, where they work extremely long hours. Here are some tips for keeping everyone safe.

1. Get good sleep.

“When you spend a lot of time working, you become fatigued; when you are fatigued, you make poor decisions about your safety,” says Charles Schwab, a safety specialist with Iowa State University Extension. “If you are working long hours, you need to take breaks so you can reenergize.”

2. Be cautious with anhydrous.

Do general inspections of anhydrous ammonia tanks before using them in the fields. If a tank has a water storage supply on the side, it needs to be full before going out in the field. Anhydrous ammonia, when spilled, can cause severe burns to eyes, lungs, and skin. Because it is attracted to water, the best way to minimize injury after a spill is to douse the victim with water.

3. Check your equipment.

Do an equipment check before heading out on the road. Safety guards, headlights, taillights, hazard signs, goggles, and gloves should be checked before planting begins. Also, be sure to fold equipment into transport position, even when moving between fields. Make sure all exposed PTO units are properly guarded.

4. Don't expect too much from kids.

To limit injuries and to avoid risk, Schwab suggests developing family rules appropriate to the age and stage of each family member, involving youth in farm safety projects, inspecting the farm for obvious hazards, and teaching youth proper safety skills. Never allow kids or other riders on tractors, farm implements, wagons, or trailers, or inside the bed of a pickup truck.

5. Look up and look out.

Before you begin planting, scout the fields and make note of ditches and other hazards you may have forgotten about. Make sure employees know about them too. When moving augers and other large equipment, have another person act as a spotter for you to make sure you don't come into contact with power lines. If you are in a piece of equipent that makes contact, stay in the cab and call for help.

6. Mind your movement.

Whether you're riding in an uncomfortable cab for hours on end, lifting heavy objects the wrong way, or doing seemingly harmless movements over and over, you're at risk for injury. Pay attention to your movements and the ergonomics of the tools you're using, and stretch during breaks.

Being aware of hazards and risks is very important, and stressing safety at all times can help prevent injuries and death. “The agriculture industry is the most dangerous industry in the U.S.,” Schwab says. “Make sure you take the right steps to avoid disaster.”

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