Tuesday, May 10, 2011


While giving a presentation at the Versailles FFA Flower sale on Saturday morning I mentioned that farmers are delayed with field work this year. That may be a grievous understatement. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service we typically average fifteen days suitable for field work in April. This year we had five, last year was twenty days. According to our state Climatologist, Jim Noel, we will continue to see rain through May, but rainfall patterns will be more hit and miss (as we normally see). Hopefully these large rains that cover most of the state will go by the wayside. So what does all this extra rain mean? Farmers are going to have two to three weeks to accomplish what they normally have several months to do.

When we are rushed and under that kind of stress it’s pretty easy for accidents to happen and tempers to flare. The list of potential hazards on a farm is already staggering, but adding the rush of a short planting season can increase the likelihood of an accident. What can our farmers do to minimize their chance of an accident? Let’s talk about a few things we’ll be working on in the next few weeks.

Once we are ready to be out in the fields we will be applying pesticides to control weeds, insects and diseases. With applying chemicals comes a risk to applicators and handlers. The first place to start with pesticide safety is the label of the product you will be applying. When you read the label (although most of us skim rather than read) focus on sections on PPE, first aid and precautionary statements. Most of us have looked over our equipment five or six times, but have we looked at our PPE? Do we have the proper PPE, is it in good condition? Remember a glove is not a glove if it has a hole in it! While you read the label for PPE requirements make sure to read first aid information. Accidents do happen. It is better to know how to respond rather than spending five minutes digging through the label after you spilled a product on yourself. I’ve had to dig through a label with one hand while the other is under running water; it’s not a situation you want to be in. As an added precautionary step when working with pesticides, make sure someone knows where you are and what you are working with.

Equipment is another major safety concern this time of year. Whether we are getting that first cutting of alfalfa or loading corn to take to the elevator, we are probably working around a PTO. While working around PTOs and augers make sure all shields and guards are in place and functional. On cool mornings make sure your extra layers aren’t too baggy and/or hanging loose. If you put on a hooded sweatshirt before you leave for the morning, cut the strings off.

In a rushed season most folks will inevitably be working at night. You’ve spent countless hours staring at equipment in the barn, but did you check to see if your slow moving vehicle signs were still reflective? Do all of the road lights on your equipment work? What about trailer lights? When you work at night sleep definitely suffers. There have been a few studies published recently on sleep deprivation and its impacts on health. Did you know that running on only a few hours of sleep a night for a week can cause symptoms similar to diabetes, cause memory loss, and even hallucinations? Or did you know that drinking a single beer on four hours or fewer of sleep the night before can have the same impact as having a six pack! So when you do get a chance to celebrate the end of planting season be sure to do it in the comfort of your own home.

If we don’t live or work on a farm we can still contribute to safety this time of year. While I was out in Kansas there was a rule about yielding. Most country roads in Kansas are gravel or dirt and intersections don’t have stop signs. Whoever has the biggest equipment wins at the intersection. Many times our research truck loaded down with a trailer and tractor had to stop and yield to a combine at an intersection. When driving down a two lane a car or pickup truck can stop more quickly and safely than a tractor with a planter behind it. So if you see a tractor coming, give them the right-of-way. With a little more attention to safety and a little more observation we can have a safe season.

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