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Plan to Eliminate Harvest Season Hazards this Autumn

28 August 2012
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

CANADA - Harvest season is around the corner, and preparations for fall work are in full swing. Checking equipment, performing regular maintenance work, planning which fields are harvested first and making ready the equipment to do the job – all of this preparatory work is part of the process. Above all, in harvest preparations, farmers need to plan for an injury-free season.

“There are good reasons why harvest season is notorious for hazards,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

“During harvest, workers are using equipment that they have not used for at least 10 months. It is important for farmers to review the operator’s manual and re-familiarise themselves with the equipment prior to getting back on seasonal machines. Also, most harvest equipment is enormous and often times complex with many hazardous components. Machines should be up-to-date on all scheduled maintenance, and farmers need to be prepared to perform required maintenance as needed throughout the harvest.”

Equipment being transported on public roadways can create a potential hazard for both motorists and equipment operators. When transporting farm equipment on public roads, farmers must adhere to all traffic laws. Workers should ensure clear sight when turning onto the road and be aware of oncoming traffic. Maintain safe travel speeds for the equipment, and pre-plan the route to avoid unsafe conditions such as low hanging power lines or narrow road ways. Take time to return machinery and implements to the roadway position. This position makes the equipment as narrow as possible. Ensure that all equipment is properly equipped with signal and clearance lights. Check that all reflectors are in place and ensure clear visibility of the slow-moving vehicle emblem on the last piece of equipment being moved.

“Fields and terrain may have changed over summer,” says Ms Lubeck. “Spring thawing and summer storms sometimes create hazards such as rocks, debris and ditches or holes from water run-off. It’s a good idea to inspect fields for any changes before taking equipment out. Be sure to remove or clearly mark any such hazards to prevent upsets, turnovers and damage to equipment. This is particularly important for workers who may be unfamiliar with the fields.”

The high demands of harvest create stress and fatigue in workers. People are easily distracted, especially when there are many workers operating different pieces of equipment such as combines, grain trucks and augers. Farmers need to recognize fatigue, drowsiness or illness and adjust their schedule accordingly. As well, days are starting to shorten and often farmers find themselves working in situations with little light.

“With some planning and possibly some adjustments, harvest season can be injury- and incident-free,” says Ms Lubeck. “This will lead to better financial gain and a more successful farming operation in the long run. Of course the biggest gain will be the opportunity to enjoy family and friends in the joyous seasons that follow harvest.”

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