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Make spring planting safety plans early to avoid injuries
 
By Doug Schmitz
Iowa Correspondent

IOWA CITY, Iowa – As farmers prepare for the 2024 spring planting season, agricultural safety experts are advising them to make a safety plan beforehand to help avoid injury both on and off the farm.
“The main concern we have during the busy spring season is stress and fatigue,” Rich Gassman, director of Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Iowa, told Farm World. “Even with the best of plans, spring can be a very busy and stressful time of year. Farmers understand the importance of getting the crop planted in a timely manner.
“To do this, they work long hours in the fields away from family and friends,” he added. “It is important in this busy time of year to take time to relax and recharge. Take a break and have a picnic with the family out in the field, or attend your preferred Sunday service. By reducing your stress and fatigue, you reduce your chances of an injury, and can come home safe each night.”
When asked how farmers can safeguard children on the farm, he said, “Planting time is busy on the farm. Tractors and implements are coming in and out of the yard, as well as input delivery personnel. If there are young children around, develop a safe play area for them to play in.
“The safe play area should be away from the main drive coming into the farm, and be secure enough to keep children from wandering out,” he said. “Communicate the location of the safe play area to all family, employees, and input suppliers. Let them know what the established speed limit is on the farm driveway.”
He added, “Set aside time for your children. It is stressful for them as well when they are away from mom or dad for long periods of time.”
Dan Neenan, a paramedic and director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety’s Safety, Transportation and Emergency Medical Services at Northeast Iowa Community College’s Peosta campus, told Farm World, “Is the first aid kit stocked? Is the fire extinguisher charged and ready to go if need be?
“For the farmer, ‘Am I taking new medication that is food- or drink-dependent? What are the side effects if I take the medication, and don’t take the time to rest or eat when recommended?’” he said.
He added, “Do you rent property? If so, do you have the 911 number for the farm or the address written down and copied in every vehicle that travels from farm to farm? With 911 centers getting regionalized, I can’t say that I am at the old Joe Smith farm because they won’t know where that is located. Having the exact address can reduce the time to get an emergency response.”
He said farmers also need to take precautions when using and applying farm chemicals: “Just before planting is manure spreading and aerating the manure, which can cause low oxygen and high hydrogen sulfide levels, which are dangerous to humans; and the anhydrous ammonia season, with tank applying, and going up and down the highways.”
Regarding farmers moving machinery to and from their fields and traveling on rural roads, Gassman said, “As our farms have become bigger, farmers are spending more time on the road, traveling from field to field during the spring planting season.
“This can lead to interactions between farm equipment and motorists on the roadway,” he said. “Tractors and implements are big machines that take up a large amount of the roadway. Be alert for tractors and implements on the road during spring and fall as they travel from field to field. Be patient with tractors and implements on the roadway, and be aware that they can turn unpredictably.
“If you are passing a tractor and implement on the roadway, be aware of what is around you,” he added. “Look ahead to see if there is a field or farm lane coming up. The tractor and implement may be turning there.”
He said, “The shoulder of the road may not be large enough or strong enough to support the weight and size of the tractor and implement, so they may not be able to pull over onto the shoulder to let you pass.” He added the slow-moving vehicle sign must be clearly visible to motorists from the rear of the machinery.
Neenan said farmers need to check their lighting and marking before starting to plant and taking the machinery on the road.
“Check lighting and retro-reflective tape on the outside rear of all machinery to make sure they are visible,” he said. “Be very careful making left turns into a farmstead. A number of incidents happen each year with farm equipment making left turns into farmsteads. Use your signals, if equipped, but always look to your back left before making the turn.”
Overall, Gassman said, “If stress and anxiety start to overwhelm you, please reach out to a mental health professional for assistance.”
3/19/2024