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Don't shrug off planting safety

With sunny days becoming more frequent and soil temperatures rising, a Purdue Extension agricultural safety specialist warns farmers not to let their enthusiasm for spring planting lead to injuries.

Instead, growers need to take a few extra minutes to double-check equipment that has been idle over the winter and keep safety precautions in mind.

"Farmers need to make sure before they go into planting season that the safety guards are in place on their equipment," Steve Wettschurack says. "Maybe a piece was taken off last fall because it was broken or worn out, but now it needs to be replaced. They should make sure they've looked at hydraulic hoses and anything else that might be a yearly repair before heading out to the fields.

"Not cutting corners is important. It only takes a few minutes to make sure a piece of equipment is safe and ready for transport."

Safety equipment such as headlights, taillights, hazard signs, goggles, and gloves also should be checked before planting begins.

Most farm equipment has a large width when fully extended, but Wettschurack said farmers moving equipment should always fold it into transport position.

"Some toolbars on planters are 90 feet wide when they're opened up in the field, and we're talking about a roadway that's 12 feet wide," he said. "They're designed to fold themselves up, maybe numerous times, to get down to roadway width."

Planters, disks, field cultivators, and other equipment can be folded up hydraulically in a matter of minutes. The equipment should be fully folded between fields - no matter the distance between them - for the safety of the farmer and other drivers.

Nonfarm drivers also should be extra cautious on the roads during planting season.

"Unfortunately, it seems like we have people in a lot more of a hurry today, and they don't quite want to get over as much as they used to," Wettschurack said. "But give the farmer that courtesy. And the farmer needs to give that individual on the road courtesy to make sure they get by each other safely."

Wettschurack also advised farmers to 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.

"Copious amounts of water is the number one thing to do prehospital if you get a drop of anhydrous on you. The more water the better," Wettschurack said.

He cautioned farmers to keep the wind at their backs when applying anhydrous ammonia to avoid exposure. If the wind is from the south, farmers need to keep equipment north of them so the anhydrous is blowing away.

Farmers should also check gauges, tires, and wheel bearings for signs of distress or rust.

"A tire blowing out when going 30 mph down the road can cause a lot of damage," Wettschurack said.

Editor's Note: Story written by Amanda Gee, Purdue University Extension writer.

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