Prepare for Fall Harvest with Safety Tips

Timing is everything with the fall harvest and Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate, adding even more pressure to a short window of time that can make or break the year.  When the pressure is on there are some key points to remind yourself, your family, and your employees to make for a safe and productive harvest. 

Roadway Safety 

The majority of roadway accidents involving farm equipment happen at dawn and at dusk.  The combination of farmers coming and going to fields, peak traffic times for the public, and low light conditions all create a perfect storm.  Some important things to consider for roadway safety: 

  • Ensure all equipment is properly placarded with a DOT slow moving vehicle sign and appropriate yellow warning lights.  The WI DOT provides an excellent quick resource to determine what safety precautions are required for your situation.
  • If possible, have someone follow in a truck equipped with yellow warning lights to act as an escort vehicle. The escort vehicle should maintain a safe following distance behind the equipment to provide the operator with a buffer from other vehicles approaching too closely. 

Very shortly we will be formally announcing a new safety partnership with the National Farm Medicine Center and multiple other partners to launch an initiative to reduce accidents involving slow moving vehicles.  Please watch our website and social media channels for more information! 

Do you have a tractor that isn’t equipped with rollover protection?  Did you know there is a rebate program that will cover 70% (up to $865) for the purchase and installation?  For more information, visit the National Farm Medicine Center Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS) Rebate Program

Recovering Stuck Vehicles 

Trucks get stuck. When they do, don’t get struck. Every year we see claims related to attempts to pull out a piece of equipment mired into the field. Some are simply for damaged vehicles when the chain or strap snaps. Others are far more serious.  One recent claim involved a tractor operator using chain to pull out a straight truck. The chain failed sending it through the back window of the tractor at a very high velocity. The operator was knocked unconscious and the co-workers were forced to chase and board a moving tractor to stop it. In this scenario another worker could have easily been run over. 

When the chain failed, it rocketed through the back window removing a portion of the employee’s ear. Had the strike to the employee’s head been a mere fraction of an inch further to one side, it most assuredly would have resulted in a fatality.

My recommendation would be to invest in a device like the Safe-T-Pull

  • Positive attachment device that eliminates the failure potential of a rope, chain, or sling.
  • Eliminates the need for employees to get out of the vehicle to hook and unhook. 
  • Helps avoid slips/trips/falls that we see on a regular basis from workers getting in or out of vehicles. 

If you absolutely must use something else, never use a chain. The repeated use of a chain weakens it to an unpredictable breaking point with disastrous results. Using a wide belted sling/strap, positioned as close to the stricken vehicle as reasonably possible, using a steady pull instead of jerking the slack out, and placing a heavy mat over the center portion of the sling/strap to weight it down if it does come undone are all ways to avoid serious injury. 

Hazardous Energy Control – Lockout / Tagout 

Lockout / Tagout (LOTO) is a process to ensure that before working on equipment, that all potential energy sources have been isolated and rendered inoperative.  Potential energy sources include:

  • Electrical power
  • Hydraulic pressure
  • Pneumatic pressure
  • Thermal energy
  • Gas (energy potential as well as oxygen displacement or toxicity)
  • Gravity
  • Mechanical (springs, belts, and other moving parts). 

NEVER work on equipment until it has been completely powered down, pressures bleed off, and all parts have stopped moving. Take measure to secure the power sources involved to ensure the equipment can’t be accidently or intentionally started while servicing it. Once these measures have been taken, attempt to restart the equipment to ensure it can’t be down. On pieces of equipment using hydraulics to move parts, use blocks to secure these components so after the equipment is powered down, it does not unintentionally move parts when pressure has been bled off. 

Communicate what you are doing to others onsite to ensure someone doesn’t inadvertently place a piece of equipment back into service before its ready. Before restarting, ensure that everyone is clear of the equipment. When working with grain elevators, conveyors, or other fixed equipment, use padlocks and tags to secure power sources. 

Above all make sure that when equipment is in operation, all appropriate guards are in place.  Those working around moving equipment (including PTO driving equipment) should not wear loose fitting clothing. 

Hay Fires 

Ensure hay is within the proper moisture content ranges based on type of hay and baling method.  Bales should be periodically probed to test for above normal temperatures. 

  • Temperatures up to 140°F degrees are acceptable.
  • Once temperatures exceed 150°F degrees, further steps should be taken to provide better air circulation.
  • Once temperatures exceed 175°F degrees, a fire is imminent or already present near the probe.  Call 911 and have the fire department on hand BEFORE moving hay bales. 
  • Temperatures in excess of 200°F indicate a fire is present at or near the probe.  NEVER walk on top of hot bales, cavities may have developed inside of the bales from the fire creating a potentially fatal collapse situation. 

Chris Schlechta – Rural Mutual Safety & Loss Control Manager

Farming traditions run deep in the state of Wisconsin and farm safety is a priority for farmers. As the #1 Farm Insurance in Wisconsin, Rural Mutual has been protecting farms across the state for over 85 years. We also believe in protecting the families and children in our farming communities.

Additional safety information can be found at on our Farm Safety page or contact your local Rural Mutual Insurance agent.