Farm safety is a critical topic.
It’s an unfortunate truth: if you’re reading this, chances are you know a family that has been affected by a farm-related accident. The good news is, many steps have been taken to make the industry safer, including the creation of National Farm Safety Week. This year, the week of September 21-27 gives the ag community the chance to focus on safety.
Safety is high priority at Birkey’s–it has to be. The majority of farm accidents involve the use of machinery, and 90% of our employees work on or around machinery every day.
When asked about farm safety, many Birkey’s employees had stories to tell or reminders to offer to customers and friends. Here are tips from six service techs:
James Lozier, Bloomington
Keep safety shields in place
“In the shop, I see a lot of machines with the safety shields removed—for example, chain and belt guards on combines, or the shields around PTOs. I know farmers remove them because it’s easier to see things when the shields are off, and it makes for a quicker walk around. But there’s a reason those parts are there.”
“On the same topic, oftentimes, when these parts break, they won’t be repaired. It might seem like folks are saving time or money, but it’s a safety risk.”
Check your lights
“I also like to remind producers to do a light check before they drive on the road. Make sure your headlight, taillights, flashers, and turn signals all work. This is an easy check to do, and can save someone from rear-ending you on the highway.”
Kevin Engel, Galesburg
Keep a fire extinguisher on hand
Having a working fire extinguisher around can keep a bad situation from becoming much worse.
Newer Case IH combines come with two class ABC extinguishers. A class ABC extinguisher is best, because it can put out all types of fires: trash, liquids like grease, oil, or gas, and electrical. If your machine didn’t come with fire extinguishers, you can buy a kit from Birkey’s or from a local fire equipment company. I recommend mounting one by the ladder and one by the engine compartment.
Inspect all the fire extinguishers on the combines before season. Make sure they’re all in the green zone. If you have any questions, take them to a fire equipment company for service.
Drew Seck, Macomb
Don’t wear loose clothing
“Loose article of clothing, long hair, or strings on your sweatshirt hood can easily get tied up in a machine’s moving parts, especially if you’re walking around looking for a problem or noise.”
“When we have an issue with a combine—or any piece of equipment—we’re often frustrated and in a hurry. We’re more worried about finding the problem than being safe. Be safe ahead of time: don’t wear loose clothing when you go out. That way you won’t have to worry about it in these stressful situations.”
Harley Hawk, Williamsport
Engage safety stand before doing header maintenance
“Even if you’re in a hurry, never crawl under a header without a safety stand.”
“When you get underneath your cornhead or platform for maintenance, be sure to lock your feeder house up. Never trust the hydraulic system. It can fail. Make sure you secure the header latch, safety stand or any other block before working on the header or on parts beneath or behind it.”
Dillon Brazelton, Oakland
Slow down for intersections on county roads
“Last fall, I had an experience that scared me. I had a very close call with another driver at the intersection of a small county road. We were both slamming on the brakes and swerving. When I came to a stop, I backed up, got out, and looked at the intersection. It wasn’t marked with any signs.
“All these county roads that ‘never have traffic’—well, they do right now. This time of year, we’re all on the road hustling to brings parts out or to service machines in the field. Many small county roads don’t have stop or yield signs, and you can’t see someone coming around blind corners until you’re on top of them. Be careful. Treat all intersections like there is a yield sign and slow down before you cross.”
Rick Webster, Annawan
Stay safe while harvesting hooked corn
“Up in our area, we had a windstorm last month. It blew a lot of corn down, and much of it is hooked. There are a couple reasons this can be a safety hazard.”
“First, in these conditions, there’s a potential of plugging on top of the corn head. Some growers will walk along the corn head and push stuff through. To do this, farmers will have to walk through cornstalks that have already been cut. With today’s hybrids, the corn stalks are very stiff, and it’s easy to trip. Walking along the combine is a dangerous way to deal with hooked corn.
“Second, combining in these conditions can be stressful and frustrating. Even if you’re going slow, it’s important to keep your head about you and follow basic farm safety. If the corn head is plugged with trash, it’s best to separate it from the combine to clean it. Don’t oil chains out in the field while the machine is running, and don’t get in the grain tank. Most farmers know not to do this, but I’ve seen it happen while the machine was running. You might be in a hurry and think, ‘It won’t happen to me, I’m careful’—but this is a very hazardous situation and should be avoided.”
Safety at Birkey’s
One of Birkey’s HR team, Cecilia Miller, shared about Birkey’s approach to safety, and how the company maintains a safe workplace and follows OSHA guidelines.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. It is the desire of Birkey’s to provide a safe working environment for all employees.
- Our employees attend safety meetings where they learn about our safety practices and procedures. These include topics on fire safety, slips trips and falls, weather emergency safety, health safety, and driving safety.
- Our employees also receive training on forklift driving requirements, how to read MSDS forms, and accident reporting procedures.
- Managers are required to conduct a “hands on” demonstration on the safe use of tools, machinery, and equipment that is used by the employees. Special instructions and emphasis is placed on safety devices.
- Employees are also required to have a clean driving record in order to drive one of our vehicles.