Public Health Community Advisory – Harvest season arrived a little later than normal this year, but the traditional health and safety hazards of the season did not miss it. Harvest season has different meanings to all of us. If you are an agricultural producer, better known as a farmer, it means harvesting your crops in a timely manner and transporting them to on-farm or local storages and markets. If you are a rural resident or visitor to a rural area, it often means learning how to navigate in and around harvesting activities. Here are a few tips that will help those of us that are on both sides of the fence.
For rural residents and visitors:
Agricultural equipment is everywhere during harvest season. The farm machinery that you encounter can come in a variety of sizes. A majority of new harvesting machinery is larger than a typical travel lane on the roadways. The machinery might be “sharing” part of your lane. The machinery can also move at a variety of speeds. This leads to two, or more, potential hazards. First, you will come up on slower machinery very quickly, especially at highway speeds. Second, the machinery might be traveling faster than you expect. Don’t race to pass or pull out in front of larger, fast moving machinery. Finally, harvesting in the field can lead to moving wildlife. Many wild animals use farm fields for cover and feeding. When the fields are harvested the wildlife will start moving to other locations which may include roadways.
For those working in or around machinery (this can even apply to yard work):
Taking breaks will make you more alert and prevent pain and injuries from repetitive motion and vibration.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings!
Often times you will be working with other people that will be moving around you. Be aware of where they are at all times and set ground rules of how to interact with each other. Watch out for other machinery and obstacles as well.
Turn It Off!
Make sure to turn any machinery that you are working with off and prevent it from starting unintentionally before you work on it.
Put Them On and Keep Them On!
Guards and shields are important safety features that prevent injuries. Do not remove them, and replace damaged or worn guards and shields.
Lighting and marking of your machinery and you are important, especially in the hours with lower visibility. Make sure your equipment has the proper lights and marking that allow others to see you. Also, don’t forget to wear highly visible clothing when you are working at these times.
If we all work together, we can have a healthy and safe harvest season! You can find more information at CS-CASH
This article was written by Aaron M. Yoder, PhD, an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health.