September 24, 2021 at 6:20 p.m.

Take actions for safe, healthy harvest

Skjolaas, Wege outline tips for on-farm safety

By Krista [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    In light of National Farm Safety and Health Week Sept. 20-25, the Professional Dairy Producers featured a Dairy Signal webinar called “Farm Safety and Maintenance Tune-Up.”
    Cheryl Skjolaas, senior outreach specialist with the University of Wisconsin Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, talked mostly about harvest and road safety. Justin Wege, ag mechanics instructor/tractor safety program lead, department chair for ag mechanics, outdoor power equipment, and farm business production management with Fox Valley Technical College, focused on preventative maintenance.
    “Take actions to make sure it is a safe and healthy harvest season,” Skjolaas said.
    When it comes to harvest safety, Skjolaas said to first look at the operator’s manual of the equipment used.
    “While you may have been working in this industry and operating equipment for a long time … for every piece of equipment you need to know where the controls are and what switches do,” Skjolaas said.
    If a person does not have a lot of time to read the manual from cover to cover, Skjolaas said to focus on the safety section of the book.
    “The operator’s manual is going to have some really important key messages for you to review,” she said. “Keep the manuals on hand and make sure everyone knows where they are.”
    Another key point is to train operators and review the hazards of the equipment.
    “You may be bringing in a lot of people to run equipment – family members, neighbors or hiring people on a temporary basis,” Skjolaas said. “They may not understand what the hazards are. Go through them together and what you can do to prevent them.”
    Skjolaas suggested having a check list for equipment.
    Another important point about harvest safety is to not take shortcuts.
    “We’re really creative sometimes about how we can get things done … but it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing or the good thing to do,” Skjolaas said.
    For road safety, Skjolaas said the first thing to do is check the lighting and marking: make sure the slow moving vehicle emblem is clean and bright; have amber retroreflective strips in the front and red ones in the back; make sure headlights and all other white lamps are only forward facing; and make sure to have a turn signal.
    “It’s not just about added cost, but it’s an added prevention to help you to increase your visibility to your neighbors and the people you care for,” Skjolaas said.
    Other road safety points Skjolaas said are important is knowing the vehicle, weight and road rules.
    “There are differences between implements of husbandry and the trucks we’re using, and different road authorities and regulations for weights,” Skjolaas said. “Just be sure you know those and go out there in a legal vehicle.”
    Skjolaas also reminded people that it is illegal for anyone to block the road besides law enforcement.
    “Follow the rules of the road and share the road,” Skjolaas said. “You have the responsibility to warn the motorist if you’re going to turn. Use signal lights or hand signals. Even with older equipment, there are a lot of new lighting and marking materials. There are lights that can be connected with magnets or temporarily secured to be switched between equipment.”
    Also, if debris, such as mud or manure, is left on the road from the fields, farmers need to take care of it.
    “As a farmer you have the responsibility to clean up the road,” Skjolaas said.
    Mental health is also important.
    “When things seem to be going wrong, take that break,” Skjolaas said.
And the No. 1 safety tip Skjolaas likes to remind people is to make sure power is off before fixing or doing maintenance on equipment.
    “Lock it out, take the key out,” she said. “Use those features that lock that equipment up. If it’s something that is tied to electrical, make sure the power or any stored energy is out of that system before you work on it. There are a lot of different gears, chains and mechanisms. We don’t have the reaction time.”
    Wege talked about preventative maintenance.
    “It starts with a daily walk around,” he said. “Fires and accidents around harvest time – some of that is related to not performing that preventative maintenance inspection on a daily basis. We’re in a hurry … Sometimes that 5-minute walk around can save us major breakdowns at this important time of the year.”
    When performing a quick check, Wege said to look at the fluids.
    “They are a vital part of our equipment running,” he said.
    Also check general wear of the equipment such as tire condition, if pieces are missing or had been taken off for repair and not replaced. Chains and belts should be tight.
    “So they don’t start a fire or something that can create a fire,” Wege said.
    The overall condition of the cab is also important to look at. Are the windows clear enough to see out of? Are the SMV signs visible? Are flashers and other lights working?
    Keeping a record of what type of maintenance has been done is a good way to keep it done on a schedule. It does not have to be formal. Wege suggested a white board in a shop, writing it in the operator’s manual or in a notebook.
    Daily upkeep could be the difference between keeping the harvest on schedule or delaying it.
    “Sometimes spending money and time upfront is the key to not being broke down at this time of year,” he said. “This time of year, dealerships are very short on personnel. If you can prevent something major from happening on your own, let’s try to do that.”


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