I love harvest time, says Joel DeJong, ISU Extension and Outreach Field Agronomist. I also fear it. Agriculture ranks as the third most dangerous occupation, according to the US Department of Labor. In 2008 for example, over 300 crop farmers died from work related accidents -- nearly double the number of miners who died. Harvest time is the MOST LIKELY period for farm-related accidents and fatalities. We always feel like we are under the gun at harvest time, so many are tempted to take more risks and hurry. Bob Aherin from the University of Illinois, and Mark Hanna from ISU, reviewed the top five corn harvest killers in a recent article. The first on their list is tractor accidents, including running over or striking a person with a tractor. Children are at risk when there is a lot of machinery traffic at harvest time. Rollovers also create a lot of risk, so be certain you have rollover protection bars in place on all tractors. Other equipment accidents made the list, too. At harvest time fatal injuries include getting crushed under the corn head. Be sure you lock and block it before getting under a head, disengage the power, and turn off the engine. Additionally, kids love to ride on combines and tractors. Only allow them to ride with you if there is a designed seat for that extra passenger. Falls, while washing the windshield of the combine, or just from the platform is another frequent cause of injury.
Roadway accidents are also high on the risk list. It is wise to keep at least 1000 feet of view ahead of equipment on the road. That is why you should not move equipment at night, in fog or low light conditions, or any time when visibility is reduced. Get the headers from field to field on a trailer, even if going short distances. SMV emblems should be bright -- not old and faded. Inspect lights daily. Be certain they work and are easily visible. "More than once I have been behind tractors pulling wagons after dark that have lights that either are absent, quit working, or shielded from the people behind them", DeJong states.
Grain storage accidents include falls from bins and suffocation. Railings and staircases on bins are much safer than just a ladder. Be certain handrails are in place. Remember that it takes about 3-4 seconds in moving grain to get up to your knees, and after that you aren't likely to escape. Fourteen seconds can submerge your entire body. Don't take that risk! And train any younger children about the risks of flowing grain.
Electrocutions on the farm most commonly occur when a power line is hit by an auger. Our equipment keeps getting bigger -- again creating more risk of accidental contact with electrical lines.
"I love the smells of fall, the satisfaction from a good harvest, and the wonder of the miracle of crop production", Joel says. "I also hate the feeling in my stomach when I hear of another person I have worked with over the years who had a tragic farm accident", Joel also says. It seems to happen every year. Take some time before your harvest starts to reduce the risks of the season, and take time during harvest to NOT take