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Four Steps Toward a Safer, More Productive Harvest

MINNEAPOLIS (October 4, 2023) — As the leaves change and the temperatures drop, harvest kicks into gear. While it’s one of the most rewarding times of the year, it’s also one of the most hazardous. In fact, farming is still one of the most dangerous jobs in America, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But there are steps we can take toward a safer harvest season. Matt Solem, vice president at Ziegler Ag Equipment, offers four ways to ensure the safety of your family, employees, community members and yourself.
No. 1: Thoroughly inspect and prepare equipment
Before harvest starts, it’s important to inspect equipment and make sure it’s in good working condition. “Take a moment to make sure emergency stops, safety shields and lights are working properly,” advised Solem. “All slow-moving vehicle signs and warning decals should be correctly displayed and easy to see.”
Equipment dealerships can also be a helpful resource when preparing for harvest. Ask your dealership if they offer preventive maintenance inspections (PMI). PMIs can help you spot and fix any issues that could lead to a major, costly breakdown during harvest.
“Once harvest starts, we need to continue inspecting equipment,” said Solem. “Do a thorough walk-around of machinery every day it is in use. Not only are you identifying safety concerns, but you’re also identifying the areas that could prevent a catastrophic failure.”
No. 2: Review safe operating instructions
No matter how long you’ve owned or operated a piece of equipment, reading the manual and reviewing the safe operating instructions is always a good idea.
“Sometimes farmers are only running pieces of equipment for maybe two or three weeks out of the year,” said Solem. “It’s good to take the time to do a quick refresh.”
If you’re purchasing new equipment, work with the dealership to set up one-on-one training with the delivery of the new machine. “Many Ziegler Ag locations also host equipment customer clinics,” added Solem. “These events include maintenance advice, safe operation information and more.”
No. 3: Stay alert in the field
“When you’re out working, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings,” said Solem. Keep the following in mind to avoid accidents and damaged equipment:
  • Watch for large rocks, metal or wood that could damage your equipment. If you do run into debris in the field, make sure the machine is completely stopped and powered off before assessing the damage.
  • Avoid overloading grain carts and other hauling equipment to prevent unsafe operating conditions or breakdowns.
  • When working around moving parts such as PTOs, belts and augers, don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught.
  • Know where other team members are at all times and give sufficient heads up when starting equipment.
  • Don’t leave equipment running unattended. When shutting down equipment, lower the hydraulics, put in safety stops and take the keys out.
  • If working alone, let someone know where you are planning to be and what time you expect to return.
  • Keep children and animals away from working equipment.
  • Follow your instincts. If you hear a strange noise coming from your equipment or simply have a bad feeling, get it checked out before you continue working, for peace of mind and to prevent any potential accidents.
No. 4: Take care of yourself
You are the most important part of any safety equation. Prioritize your physical and mental health, especially during harvest, when the days get long. You may feel the need to push through exhaustion, illness or injury, but that’s when accidents can happen.
“Tomorrow’s another day and the work will still get done,” Solem emphasized. “The body needs time to reset, and you will make smarter, clearer decisions if you’re well-rested.”
Be ready in case of an accident
Despite our best efforts, accidents still happen. Have a well-stocked first-aid kit on hand and make a plan for handling an emergency. “Being prepared and prioritizing safety can ensure everyone makes it home safe at the end of each day,” concluded Solem. “We all have things that we enjoy doing, and we want to make sure that we’re healthy and able to enjoy them.”
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