STEVENS POINT, Wis. – Working in a shop and operating equipment can cause dangerous situations. Taking proper safety precautions, however, can help minimize the risk of injury or death while preforming farm-related tasks.  
    Will Petska, human resources and safety director at Tractor Central, LLC, spoke about the best practices that can protect those performing daily tasks on farms, especially in a shop, to the attendees at the Agricultural Safety Connection Educational Seminar Jan. 8 in Stevens Point, Wis.
    “The biggest thing is to be prepared,” Petska said. “Agricultural pieces can be unpredictable. There are a lot of things to maintain on the equipment. It’s also important to ensure that you are using the right equipment or tools. Take the time to get the right tool that you need in order to perform the job or task safely. A screwdriver shouldn’t be used as a pry-bar, right?”
    Petska urged producers to make sure all emergency exits, aisles, access to fire extinguishers and electrical panels are kept clear of hazards, clutter and obstructions. He said common culprits that block access to those areas are things such as tool boxes, empty cardboard boxes, spare parts, forklifts, air hoses and electrical cords.
    “If at all possible, it is ideal to have air hoses and electrical cords dropped from the ceiling with stops on them,” Petska said. “People can reach up and pull them down to use, and then retract them when not in use. What that does is keeps them up of the floor, eliminating tripping hazards and decreasing potential wear and tear on the cords and hoses.”
    Monitoring the condition of electrical cords in on-farm shops is another area of safety concern for Petska.
    “Electrical concerns and issues, as well as Lockout-Tagout, a safety procedure to signal to others to ensure equipment is properly shut off and not able to be started up again prior to the completion of maintenance or repair work, are in the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s] top 10 in every industry, every single year,” Petska said. “Sometimes we drive over electrical cords or they get manipulated how they should not be. We get nicks or cracks in the insulation, and we don’t tend to look at them. We just keep using them, thinking they will be alright.”
    Labeling of secondary containers is another area of safety concern in an on-farm shop.
    “Shops should not have any unidentified material in pails,” Petska said. “We might know that it’s a bucket of oil, but how does someone else walking into our shop setting know? Also, if you are doing any type of mechanical work, other things such as antifreeze, oil and water could be mixed into oil. That is why it’s imperative that things are appropriately labeled in secondary containers.”
    Storage containers for waste liquids should be suitable, and the materials need to be properly disposed of.     
    Safe lifting practices on the farm are often overlooked, Petska said.
    “We often tend to forget about this in our industry,” Petska said. “It’s just rip, ram and tear. We’ve got to get the job done, as quickly and efficiently as possible. We can’t forget that we need to use safe lifting techniques to avoid injury.”
    Petska recommended to lift heavy objects using your legs and not your back. He said to use appropriate lifting equipment when available such as forklifts and skidsteers, being sure to keep within the working load limits for each piece of equipment.
    “Brawn isn’t necessarily the best practice or the best method,” Petska said. “It is a cause of over-exertion injury. Sometimes the shape of an object is more of an issue than the weight, so be certain to use lifting aids. The safe practice is to use two people to lift odd-shaped objects that can be difficult to pick up.”
    Another important factor in shop safety is to check the conditions of abrasive wheels such as bench grinders and pedestal grinders. Grinding wheels should be inspected for cracks and wear before each use. Petska said guards and tools rests should also be checked before use.
    Minimizing jewelry, loose clothing and long hair in the shop is another important step towards best practices for safe working conditions. Those are hazards, especially when working around rotating and oscillating tools. Fingers and limbs can be severed when those items get caught in equipment. Petska said several deaths occur each year due to entanglement.
    Another risk to personal safety is not using the appropriate equipment to climb.
    “Make sure you are using a ladder when necessary,” he said. “Don’t climb on boxes, pallets or tires or other things. Inspect the ladder before each use, and never use the top step or rung.”
    Using the right tool for the job, especially when it comes to hand tools, is an important factor in farm safety.
    “I grew up on a dairy farm,” Petska said. “I always joke that my dad probably could have used an old-timer knife and a hammer to overhaul an engine. … I still talk to him all the time that he isn’t using the right tool for the job. He just grabs stuff and makes it work. There is some ingenuity there that you have to appreciate, but as a safety professional, you just have to shake your head. Using what is nearby or handy instead of insuring you have the right tool for the job is a culture. We need to ingrain and change that mindset in a shop setting.”