Fall harvest season brings safety concerns

As the fall harvest season begins, we all must remember that safety is a key factor in the success of farming. Illinois has seen an increase in the number of deaths related to farm work in the past two years. From 2012 to 2014 the number of farm-related fatalities has nearly doubled in number.

In order to reduce the number of ag-related injuries and deaths each year, both farmers and the public must be more aware of their actions. Motorists especially are encouraged to slow down when driving near farming equipment traveling on the main roads.

Often times it is difficult to see around tractors, so the best advice is to slow down and practice patience when you encounter farm equipment. Due to the large size of most equipment, passing a tractor is oftentimes not the safest option for the motorist or the farmer. To avoid roadside accidents. Farmers should make sure that all equipment is well lit and visible. If at all possible, farmers are encouraged to bring an escort vehicle with flashing lights, especially when driving at dusk or in the evening. This can alert motorists to slow down and pay more attention.

Accidents can also happen at home on the farm. During harvest season, farmers are encouraged to keep small children away from heavy equipment and storage containers such as grain bins. Also, operating equipment at night can be dangerous if the area is not well lit. When farming, be sure that a family member or co-worker knows where you are working. Farmers are also reminded to get plenty of rest before operating heavy equipment.

Tractor rollover is also a large contributor to the number of farming-related deaths. Of the deaths recorded, 40-45% of those were tractor-related. Most tractor-related fatalities occur in tractors without rollover protective structures (ROPS) on them. It is important for farmers to have these, especially when doing work in an area with a higher risk of overturns like ditches, or working on uneven ground and roadsides. Farmers are encouraged to use equipment with ROPS because the chance of accident survival increases from about 20% to 95% when they are present.

As a state that takes great pride in our agriculture, keeping our farmers safe should be a priority. This year we can make harvest season safer and reduce the number of fatalities by being more aware. With National Farm Safety and Health Week drawing to a close, let it remind all of us to be more cautious when farming equipment is present.

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