Opinion

Safety of farm equipment makes big difference

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

With the busy spring planting season fast approaching, now's the time to inspect farm machinery for safety and to make repairs and upgrades as necessary.

Pay particular attention to safety signs and emblems -- especially those stickers containing important safety messages the manufacturer puts on equipment. Over time, they become difficult to read.

That also goes for "Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV)" emblems. If the paint is faded or the tape has begun to peel off, replace the emblem with a new one.

Check the lights and reflectors on powered machines and trailing equipment. Replace light bulbs and reflectors and clean as needed to make them visible again. Make sure there is a safety chain and safety hitch pin on all equipment that will be towed.

During the course of the farm year, guards and shields take a beating. Repair or replace all damaged or missing guards; replacement costs will be far less than the cost of an accident.

Check for damage to seat belts and Roll Over Protective Structures (ROPS). Repair or replace them if there is damage. To work properly, the seat belt latch must "click" when it is fastened. A seat belt must be used with ROPS-equipped tractors. According to the National Safety Council, the ROPS/seat belt combination is about 99 percent effective in preventing death from a tractor rollover. If your tractor does not have a ROPS and a seat belt, now would be a good time to have it retrofitted with this life-saving equipment.

We all know that farming can be a dangerous occupation, but being prepared for farm emergencies could possibly be the difference between life or death.

"One easy way for the entire family to begin the process of being prepared is to attend a CPR and first aid class together," said Kerri Ebert, a K-State Research and Extension assistant in the agricultural and health safety program.

Ebert also outlined other tips to promote safety on the farm, including:

* Keep a well-stocked first aid kit where it will be needed, such as in the tractor, combine, truck or machine shop;

* Develop and practice a plan to get everyone out of the house or barn in case of a fire;

* Post emergency phone numbers at every phone, including cellular phones;

* Train all family members and employees on how to quickly disengage and turn off equipment.

A pre-season preventive safety audit can save time and money in the long run. Safety features may not make field work easier or enhance machinery performance, but when used and maintained properly they do protect you and others who work with your equipment. Always have emergency numbers on hand and stay alert while operating equipment.

Editor's Note: Delta George is a K-State Research and Extension agriculture and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720.