In the Blink of an Eye – Farm Safety Newsletter – Summer 2021 Vol. II

August 27, 2021

“In the Blink of an Eye”

Farm Safety Newsletter

Summer 2021 Vol. II

Marion Barnes, Senior County Extension Agent

Clemson University


Harvest Season Can Be a Dangerous Time For Farmers

Harvest season is a busy time for most farm operations. In today’s agriculture, time means money regarding yields, production schedules, and operating costs. However, time also can ensure safety during harvest season. The extra time it may take to perform a task safely and properly can determine if the job is completed at all. Injuries are often caused by taking shortcuts, getting in a hurry, and not following safety precautions.


Most South Carolina corn producers have been blessed with a good corn crop this year, meaning a lot of time will be spent getting that crop in the bin or market. Getting these extra bushels in the bin can add up to increased exposure to farm hazards. Exposure to dust, fatigue from working long hours, entrapment by flowing grain, increased noise levels, and entanglement in grain augers and other moving mechanical parts are just a few harvest time hazards farmers may face.


Many consider grain augers one of the most essential but yet one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on the grain farm. Lacerations, broken bones, and electrocutions can occur if augers are not appropriately handled. Recently, an Aiken county farmer was injured in a sweep auger entanglement incident. Although I have not heard all the details, like most agricultural-related injuries, precautions could have been taken to prevent situations like this from occurring.


As harvest season progresses, farmers are urged to take farm safety seriously. With our medical care facilities nearing capacity and our health care professionals stretched to the limit due to COVID, it’s more important than ever not to add additional stress to an already overburdened health care system.


Farm and ag safety begins with the proper attitude. The following are a few suggestions to create and maintain a safe work environment for you, your family, and your employees.


  • Create a culture of safety values. Talk frequently about safety, emphasize the importance of safety, and lead by example.
  • Safety training is essential. Some types of training may require more time, while others and can be addressed in a less formal setting. For example, every machinery operator must read or review the operator’s manual every year for the equipment they operate.
  • Make sure workers know how to perform their job safely. Working safely is more important than working quickly.
  • Involve everyone in finding & reducing hazards. Get family members & employees in the habit of doing one of two things when they encounter a hazardous situation – repair it or report it.
  • Enforce safety discipline. When hazardous practices are observed, they demand immediate attention to minimize the chances of that practice turning into a bad habit.


Safety is critically important to everyone in your farming operation. Make everyone a partner  in creating and maintaining a safe work environment. Doing so can decrease lost work time and improve worker satisfaction.


Check the First Aid Kits

The start of a harvest season is an excellent time to check your first aid kits. We all have first aid kits on our farms ……. right?? If not, it’s a good investment for any farm. A well-stocked first kit will enable you to respond to minor injuries and emergencies. Many kits contain ice packs, heat packs, ointments, and saline solution, etc. These items are dated and should be changed regularly. Over time items can be used or become outdated or expire. You do not want to open your first aid kit and find what you need is not there or outdated. Make it a habit to check expiration dates and replace items when you use them or when they become out of date. First aid kits on the farm can be exposed to dirt, dust, and weather. Use containers that are dustproof and water-resistant, and properly labeled.


Agricultural incidents often occur at night or in cold weather. Including a flashlight and an emergency-type blanket in your first aid kit is usually a good idea. Larger first aid kits can be located at the main farm or shop building or in the home. Smaller kits should be kept in vehicles or significant pieces of farm equipment. Consider including specific personal information in the first aid kit for individuals that are working on your farm. For example, it would be a good idea to know if a person was allergic to insect stings like fire ants or bees. Also include the contact information of the worker’s family doctor. Many farm incidents are often severe, and in a stressful emergency situation, it’s pretty common for people to forget their first aid training, so include a first aid manual with your kit. Know the proper way to administer care by taking first aid and CPR training. Agricultural first aid kits can be purchased from specific organizations and businesses, including The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety and Gemplers.


Agriculture has a fatality rate eight times the average of all industries in the United States. This fact should remind all of us that our farms and ranches can be dangerous places. As we face these challenges, we should make a special effort to prioritize farm safety. For more information on farm safety and other agricultural topics, contact your local Clemson Extension office. Information for this article was taken in part from Time to Check Your First Aid Kits by Kent McGuire, OSU CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator.


Avoid Slips and Falls during Harvest Season

Slips, trips, and falls are major causes of injuries throughout the year but are especially common around machinery, equipment, and structures during harvest season. Here are a few simple steps that can help farmers avoid slips, trips, and falls:

  • Always consider the height at which you work.
  • Before climbing on machinery or structures, scrape dirt and mud off shoes and boots.
  • Keep work platforms and steps free of debris.
  • Use shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles and heels.
  • Dismount equipment only when it comes to a complete stop.
  • Use grab bars or hand railings when mounting or dismounting equipment.
  • Always keep three points of contact: two handholds and one foot, or two feet and one handhold at all times.
  • Avoid carrying items in your hand when climbing ladders or equipment steps.


Tops of combines are 12 to 14 feet or more off the ground, and the operator’s platform can be 6 to 8 feet or more above the ground. Ladders on grain bins can exceed 30 feet or more. A fall to the ground can result in broken bones, back injuries, serious sprains, or death. Secondary hazards on work or walk surfaces increase the possibility of falls. Mud, grease, oil, or loose grain make work surfaces slippery. Be aware of work hazards and the focus of the job at hand. Have a safe harvest season.


Information for this article was taken in part from Farm Safety, Avoid Slips and Falls During Harvest Season, Iowa State University.


Leave a Reply