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Prevent injury or death in less than a minute

There are plenty of simple things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your employees.

When it comes to farm safety, you may think of big things like adding a roll-over protection system (ROPS) to your older tractors. While that's a safety feature you should definitely implement, there are all kinds of small things that can be done every day to help prevent injury and even death.

Charlotte Halverson is a certified occupational health nurse and the clinical director for AgriSafe, a nonprofit organization of health professionals in the agriculture industry. “There are so many little things that can get us into deep trouble,” she says. “In many cases, taking just one minute to take care of things while they’re top-of-mind can mean the difference between life and death or a horrible injury.” 

Avoid Entanglement 

1. HOODIE STRINGS: Halverson says one of her best tips is to take the strings out of hooded sweatshirts before you even take the price tags off, whether or not you plan on working around augers or PTOs. “Entanglement injuries can be devastating,” she says. “They happen so fast.”

2. LONG HAIR: Anyone with long hair should pull it back and tuck hair into a bun or underneath a hat to avoid getting it caught.

3. SHOELACES: Make sure shoes are tied all the time. These are things that take less than a minute to do, but, Halverson says, “they can save a life or prevent a debilitating injury.”

4. JEWELRY: Halverson says everyone should take a few seconds to remove rings, watches, bracelets, and necklaces before doing farm work. For those who wish to always wear a wedding ring, she recommends silicone rings for work, because they will tear away if caught on machinery. “I wish these rings would've been invented decades ago,” she says.

Drive Safe

1. SEAT BELTS: Buckling a seat belt takes only seconds, but it is the single most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in a crash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reinforce this rule with young people, since traffic accidents are responsible for more than half the deaths of rural people between the ages of 15 and 24.

2. CAR SEATS: Making sure young children are properly restrained in size-appropriate car seats or booster seats takes less than a minute, and Halverson reminds parents and grandparents to take this crucial step for every trip, no matter how short.

3. SET AN EXAMPLE: When it comes to driving, “Practice what you preach,” Halverson says. “Kids observe what you do. If you tell them to drive slow on the gravel, so should you.” Let them see you silence your phone and stash it out of sight so it won’t be a distraction. 

4. BEFORE YOU GO: During the winter months, spend a minute thoroughly scraping icy windows before driving, and take a few seconds to plug in your phone before you leave, so you’ll have plenty of battery life in case you get stranded. Obviously, do not text and drive.

Watch Your Step

1. CLUTTER: Falls are one of the most common injuries on the farm, and they can be especially dangerous for young children and senior citizens. One of the best ways to avoid falls is to just pick up after yourself and encourage others to do the same. “It only takes a few seconds to hang up a shovel when you’re done with it, or to get that extension cord off the floor and place it on a hook,” Halverson says. She also recommends putting power equipment out of reach of children as soon as you’re done with it.

2. LADDERS: Ladders are another major source of fall injuries. “Before you climb, do a quick check to make sure the ladder is in good repair,” Halverson says. “We’ve seen so many devastating injuries from falls.” Whether you’re on a folding or extension ladder or climbing into or out of machinery, Halverson advises using the three-point method: make sure one foot and two hands or two feet and one hand are touching a rung at all times. Using this method rather than scampering up and down may add a minute to your efforts, but it can prevent a devastating injury.

3. GATES AND FENCES: Rather than climbing over gates, Halverson says it’s a safer option to take one extra minute to open and close them. “Sometimes gates are pretty sturdy, but if they’re wobbly or the latches aren’t tight, it’s easy to get hurt,” she says.

4. LOW LIGHT: Another way falls can occur is if it’s difficult to see. If you notice a burned-out lightbulb in a low-light area like outside your shop door, put the one-minute rule into action and just change it right away. If you are out of bulbs, spend that one minute ordering them online or adding them to your shopping list. Halverson says it’s important to pay attention to lower light levels when entering a building. “Eyes take longer to adjust the older we get,” she says. Remove sunglasses right away and just pause until you can see clearly.

A Quick Word About Gun Safety

In addition to making sure minors who hunt have taken gun safety classes and are properly supervised, Halverson says quick steps like wearing an orange jacket and making sure guns are in safety mode when crossing fences can save lives. Lock guns up when not in use. 

“So many injuries and deaths can be prevented by just doing these little one-minute things,” Halverson says. 

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