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Farm Safety for All This Spring

By Stacey Spenst, PAg, Regional Forage Specialist, Kindersley

May 2017

Spring has sprung in Saskatchewan, bringing with it the busy season for farmers and ranchers.  Historically, in Saskatchewan, 13 people are killed each year on farms, with 14 per cent of these being children. Everyone must do their part to ensure a safe farming season. It’s important to take a moment to discuss farm safety and recognize risks before getting wrapped up in the everyday demands of the farm. A few hazards for everyone to consider this season include:

  • Protecting yourself against Hantavirus is of heightened concern this year due to the increased mouse population found in overwintered, unharvested crops. Making sure rodent infested areas are well ventilated before working in them, and using proper personal protective equipment such as goggles, gloves and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask can help prevent exposure to the virus.

  • Another issue to watch for this spring may be getting equipment stuck due to increased moisture conditions.  Be on the lookout for signs of potentially wet areas hidden by unharvested crops. If you do need to get unstuck, check all hitches, clevises and pins to ensure they are in good condition and are the right size for the load being pulled. Using a recovery strap or cable is safer than using chains, and remember to check for frays, tears, stretching or any other sign of wear before using. In case the strap breaks, have bystanders stay back and place a dampening blanket on the strap to help force it to the ground and absorb the recoil.

  • At this time of the year watch for the transportation of equipment on roads. Farm equipment can be wider and slower than average traffic and it’s important to use caution when approaching these situations on the road as collisions with other vehicles is a major concern.  For the equipment operator, pre planning your route to ensure heights of power lines, widths of bridges and infrastructure, and that road weights can accommodate your equipment will help avoid preventable incidents.

  • Complete thorough spring maintenance of all equipment before use to ensure it is running safely and to help avoid impromptu break downs in the field.  After maintenance, be sure to replace all safety shields and guards.

  • Electrical hazards, both above and below ground, pose a risk. When moving equipment, loading grain trucks and bins, or working in fields with power lines, always be aware of your surroundings and stay the minimum recommended distance away from overhead power lines for the voltage present. Lower equipment and check line heights before moving equipment and use a spotter if necessary.  Before doing any ground disturbance such as digging dugouts, pounding posts or levelling land contact Sask 1st Call (1-866-828-4888) before you dig to have line locates completed for SaskPower owned underground lines.

  • Physical, biological and chemical hazards are the most commonly thought of hazards when discussing farm safety; however less obvious psychological hazards often play a key role in many incidents that happen. Fatigue is a major cause of accidents and it’s important to recognize the signs of stress before an incident occurs. Headaches, lack of concentration, moodiness, and physical weakness are all indicators of fatigue and stress.

Everyone needs to play an active role in generating a safety culture to ensure that near misses, incidents and tragedies don’t happen.  It only takes a second to alter lives forever.  Start the farming year out right and review farm safety so that everyone can come home safe.

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