Fall harvest safety tips

WYOBRASKA – Some commonsense tips can help prevent farm accidents during harvest season.

During the fall harvest season, countless hours will be spent in combines, tractors, trucks and other equipment by farmers and workers who will be transporting large equipment on our roads and highways. Some workers may be young, new or inexperienced, so it’s always a good suggestion to go over safety considerations with all workers to teach or reinforce the importance of safety on the farm.

Agriculture ranks among the nation’s most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, and farming is one of the few industries in which family members, who often share the work and live on the premises, are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.03 million youth under 20 years of age resided on farms in 2009, with about 519,000 youth performing farm work. In 2010, 476 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 26.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers.

Here are a few safety tips to consider on your farm as producers prepare for the harvest season:

• Read operators manual(s).

• Install Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs.

• Wear seat belts.

• Put equipment in neutral or park, engage parking brake, and turn off engine before dismounting. Wait until all mechanisms have stopped moving before attempting to service or unclog a machine.

• Locking hydraulic cylinders or supporting the head prior to working under it is always recommended.

• Limit riders on equipment. Instructional seats are designed for training or diagnosing machine problems.

• Keep all guards in place.

• Take breaks. Get enough sleep.

• Train all operators to safely operate the equipment.

• Fatigue, stress, medication, alcohol and drugs cause you to not focus on tasks.

• Have all safety equipment in proper condition and ready to use such as safety glasses, hearing protection and respiratory masks.

• Have ROPS (rollover protective structures) fitted on tractors.

Only you can prevent combine fires

Every year there are reports of combine fires. In a study of nearly 9,000 grain combine fires in the U.S., it was reported the majority (41.3 percent) were caused by crop residue. Crop residue and dust accumulate on engines and cracks and crevices through the combine. Managing this is key to decreasing risk of fire starting on the combine. Managing this is key to decreasing risk of fire starting on the combine. When it comes to preventing combine fires, there are the three P’s to remember: prevention, preparation and practicality. 


• Keep the machine clean. Power-wash to remove caked-on grease, oil and crop residue. During harvest, frequently blow dry chaff, leaves and other crop materials off the machine. Remove any materials that have wrapped around bearings, belts and other moving parts. Be sure to check those pockets where wires or lights are housed and chaff accumulates.

• Eliminate heat sources. Exhaust systems surfaces, exposed electrical wiring and worn bearings, belts and chains can potentially generate enough heat to start dust and crop residue on fire. Check these areas daily and make repairs if there are problems.

• Don’t park a hot combine in the shed or shop. After a long day of harvesting, smoldering hot spots may be present in the combine. If those spots suddenly flare up, at least you won’t lose the building.


• Keep at least one fully-charged, 10-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher with an Underwriter’s Laboratory approval in the combine cab.

• Mount a second, larger fire extinguisher on the outside of the machine that can be reached from ground level.

• Recharge partially discharged extinguishers.

• Have a cell phone.

• Have a plan. Turn off the engine, get the fire extinguisher and your phone. Get out and get help.

• Stay a safe distance away.

• Know when to wait for help.


• Get out of the combine.

• Call 911 before beginning to extinguish the fire.

• Approach the fire with extreme caution. Small fires can flare up quickly with the addition of air (by opening doors or hatches).

• If fire begins spreading in the field, try to contain it. This may include tilling a strip around the fire to create a barrier.

• Consider your safety first. Combines can be replaced.

So are you are getting ready for the 2016 harvest, take the right steps to prevent a combine fire, but be prepared just in case and remember, safety first.


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