Three P’s For a Safe Spring on the Farm: Patience, Preparations, and Precautions
Marion Barnes, Senior County Extension Agent
Brittany Flowers, County Extension Agent
As spring draws near, farmers are reminded to be aware of hazards they may face while working around their farms. Tilling and fertilizing the ground, planting crops, working livestock, weed control measures, and numerous other chores can put farmers at risk during the spring season. Farm safety comes down to three “P”; patience, preparations, and precautions. Being aware of these three simple words and applying them while working on our farms can reduce injuries and promote a safer work environment. The following are a few tips for a safe and successful spring:
- Refresh your memory by reading equipment operator manuals. Even if you have owned your tractor for many years, it is a good idea to reacquaint yourself with safe operating procedures and maintenance requirements. This can be especially helpful with today’s newer model tractors equipped with onboard electronics. Preparing machinery and preventive maintenance can reduce downtime and prevent mishaps in the field.
- Rural roadway safety. Spring will see an increased use of farm equipment on our rural roadways. Tractors will be traveling between the farmstead and remote fields, increasing the likelihood of vehicle-tractor encounters or collisions. Make sure all SVM signs are visible, and emergency flashers and lighting are in working order. Avoid moving farm equipment at dusk or dawn and through heavily congested traffic areas if possible. Always use an escort vehicle. Be safe, be seen is a good motto.
- Tractors, the modern workhorse of agriculture, are a leading cause of injuries and fatalities on the farm. Extra riders have no place on tractors. They can interfere with the tractor operator’s decision-making, obstruct their view and attention, and additional riders are at risk of falling from the tractor. Avoid side rollovers by understanding the principles of center of gravity and centrifugal force on slopes, hillsides, and unlevel ground. Be aware of how quickly rear turnovers can occur and avoid them by understanding rear axle torque and proper hitching procedures.
- Make sure all safety shields and guards are in place and working order. Safety shields are there for a reason, to keep you safe. If one is removed for service, replace it. If one is missing or damaged, replace it. If you buy a used piece of equipment, check to ensure all safety shields and guards are present and in place.
- Livestock is a significant source of farm injuries. Use caution when working around male animals and mothers with offspring. It’s an animal’s instinct to be territorial and protective of its space and offspring. Take extra caution when feeding livestock and watch for signs of nervousness and aggression. Always leave yourself an escape route when working livestock.
- Don’t be in a rush. Spring can be a hectic time of the year for farmers and livestock producers. Taking your time, working carefully and deliberately gives you time to think about potential hazards and get the job done safely. Rushing can lead to carelessness, especially if you are tired.
- Check and re-check. It never hurts to check when it comes to safety issues—taking the time to re-check your equipment before you head out to the field. Take a second look in the rearview mirror or make sure the passing lane is clear while on the roadway are always good ideas.
- Let someone know your whereabouts. Many farmers work alone or in remote areas. Today the “Back 40” may be twenty miles away from the farmstead or in another county. It’s important to let someone know where you are working and your work schedule in case of an injury or mishap.
- Make sure you are up to par. Spring farming activities can be stressful, especially for senior farmers. Aches and pains typically take a backseat during spring to make sure crops get in the ground and the livestock is cared for. Weather uncertainties, sick animals, equipment breakdowns, and other unexpected occurrences on the farm all lead to stress, both physical and mental. Don’t overlook health issues during this busy time of the year. Avoid fatigue, get plenty of rest, take frequent breaks to re-energize yourself, get proper nutrition, keep doctor appointments, and contact your health provider if you are experiencing health issues.
These are just a few suggestions that you might consider making your spring planting season a little safer. For more on information farm safety contact your local Clemson Extension Service office.
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