Savannah Valley District

Avoiding Slips, Trips, and Falls on the Farm

Marion Barnes, Senior County Extension

Falls are one of the most common sources of injuries and fatalities in agricultural operations throughout the year. Farmers are at increased risk of slips, trips, and falls due to the nature of their work day. They work with large equipment and livestock from elevated positions such as grain bins, grain trucks, and gravity wagons during harvest season, climb ladders and stairs and walk on a variety of rough and uneven ground, including wet, slippery, and oily surfaces.

Trips can occur when an obstruction catches one’s foot and causes one to stumble forward. Tripping hazards include farm shop clutter such as extension cords, air hoses, floor mats, tools, equipment parts, and other unseen and unexpected hazards. Something as little as a 3/8 inch rise in a walkway can cause a person to “stub” their toe resulting in a trip. Identify & remove trip hazards.

Slips occur when an individual loses their footing and slides, causing a loss of balance. Slip hazards include spilled grain, wet, muddy, greasy/ oily surfaces, and weather-related hazards such as snow or icy conditions on floors (wooden/ concrete), stairs, steps, or unlevel ground. Being aware of your surroundings and wearing the appropriate footwear for the job, such as slip-resistant boots or shoes, can help reduce slip hazards. Dry walking and working surfaces lessen the chance of slips. Clean up any spills immediately, especially oily material—post notifications of hazards to warn others.

Falls occur whenever you move too far off your center of balance and drop or descend freely and uncontrollably due to the influence of gravity. Falls can happen on any surface and from any height. Falls from elevated positions can occur while climbing fences, using ladders, mounting large equipment like tractors or combines, etc. Although they occur less frequently,  falls from elevated positions are usually more severe in injury.

Preventing slips, trips, and fall injuries begin with hazard identification. Be aware of the situation and take steps to eliminate the hazard. The following are a few suggestions to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls.

  • Proper housekeeping and lighting of working and walking surfaces can reduce or prevent many slips, trips, and fall incidents.
  • Use 3 points of contact when climbing ladders or mounting and dismounting farm equipment. Never jump from equipment; always use the steps.
  • Always use the proper ladder for the job and follow instructions and warning labels.
  • Never overreach when using a ladder or while in an elevated position.
  • Install and use handrails in areas where there are stairs or changes in elevation.
  • Remove obstacles from travel areas, such as hoses, power, and extension cords.
  • In wet and slippery conditions, walk slowly and carefully and take smaller steps to ensure you keep a proper balance.
  • Wear appropriate slip-resistant footwear.
  • Remain alert for hazards and avoid carrying bulky items that may obstruct your vision or view.
  • Follow good housekeeping rules in livestock working areas by keeping surfaces dry and clean.

    Three Points of Contact
    Three Points of Contact

Many slips, trips, and falls can be eliminated or prevented by taking the time to consider the situation, instituting proper safety measures, and increasing work environment awareness. For more information on farm safety contact the Clemson Extension Office.

Acknowledgments: information for this article was taken in part from Slips, Trips and Falls, Kent McGuire Ohio State University Ag Safety and Health Coordinator.  

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