By Timothy Thiele
Every year farmers deal with many dangers around the farms and fields of America. Slow moving vehicles, moving parts on equipment, and electrical hazards are all a part of their daily routines as they go through their busy routines. Farm safety should be an ongoing practice on the farm and now is as good a time as any to check for potential safety problems.
1. Electrical Inspections
Electrical safety is a must around the farm. Walk around the farm and examine the wiring associated with electrical panels, lighting, equipment, disconnects, and outlets. Bugs, mice, spider webs, and dust get into electrical boxes and connections should be inspected. Harvest season is a good a time to readying the farm for safety. If these areas are dirty or filled with obstructions, turn off power and blow them out with an air hose. Check the wires to see if mice have chewed the insulation off before you energize anything. These wires could cause electrical shorts and are potentially fatal electrical hazards waiting to happen if someone would come in contact them. All electrical equipment should be grounded before running it.
2. Safety Checklist
When the fall harvest gets into full swing around the farm, electrical safety around the farm during the harvest season should be on your safety checklist. Every year, accidents around the farm happen because of faulty cords, equipment, electrical panels, and electrical devices. Before you get caught up in the season harvest, walk around the farm and find the problem areas. Correcting them now will provide for a safe and trouble-free harvest.
3. Slow Moving Vehicles
Tractors, combines, and trucks pulling wagon loads of grain are all part of the scenery on the roads when the harvest is in full gear. In order to be safe, be sure to have your flashers on and a slow-moving vehicle sign mounted to your farm implement. Check the electrical connections for defects at both the battery and light connections. Be sure that the lights all work before heading out on the road and this includes the headlights. Although the sun may be shining when you head off to the field, storms and the darkness of nightfall will require the use of these lights for your safety and for those of other drivers.
4. Augers and Auger Connections
In order to move grain from trucks and wagons to grain bins, farmers use many different types of augers. Some augers run off of the PTO of tractors, while others are controlled by an electric motor, controlled by a switch and motor starter. In any case, augers should have a safety guard around all moving parts of the auger. The open ended part of the auger where grain is fed to fill the bin should always have a metal wire grate to keep someone from both reaching into the moving auger area and also to keep someone from falling into the auger. Augers drive a shaft with u-joints along the side of the auger that turn sprockets on top of the auger. These areas should all have guards to prevet clothing, fingers, and other body parts from coming into contact with them. Loose fiuiting clothes can become tangled in moving parts and you can be sucked into harms way in no time at all. Don't get in a hurry, practice safety first!
5. Electrical Panels and Disconnects
Before beginning the harvest season, take time to check the connections in all of your electrical panels and disconnects. Turn off the main power and tighten each breaker connection and lug connection that may have become loose from use and vibrations caused by running machines and equipment. Be certain that fuses and breakers are not oversized for the circuits and wiring they feed. Be sure that all equipment feeds have connected ground wires and that they are bonded in the panels and disconnects. Check all neutral connects to be sure they are tight. Any splices or connections in junction boxes should be checked to assure they are all tight and ready for use.
6. Electrical Outlets and Feeds
Electrical outlets are needed around the farm to use a variety of tools and equipment. In wet areas and outside where they are exposed to the weather, you should use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. This provides protection from electrical shock by automatically turning off the circuit if you were going to be electrocuted.
7. Animal Safety
Keep all electrical connections out of reach from your animals. Keep all extension cords, connections, and light far enough away from animals so they cannot chew on them or come in contact with them. They are curious creatures and are unaware of the dangers of electrocution. Besides that, you have a huge investment in them and they need your help to survive. Any electrical cords attached to water tanks should be checked for fraying or cracking. Only use extension cords for a short period of time to feed farm related equipment. If a feed is going to be used regularly, run protected wiring, installed in electrical conduit for protection and durability.
8. Lighting Safety
The fall harvest season brings cooler weather and shorter days. Because of this, you’ll likely need ample lighting to work around the farm. Night lights and temporary lighting are great ways of providing ample lighting for areas that you’ll be working on. Many dangers lurk in under-lit areas. Before the harvest begins, look over the areas that you’ll likely be in and add necessary lighting to accommodate these areas. Provide light switches to turn the lights off when not in use.
9. Power Lines and Electrical Connection Dangers
In and around farms and fields there are a number of overhead power lines. When moving tall equipment around the farm, beware of overhead power line dangers. Augers should be cranked down to a safe level when traveling under power lines. Dump trucks and semis have similar problems when the dump beds are rising up to dump their loads. Be aware of your surroundings when lifting the dump bed and moving the vehicle while the dump is in the up position. When the unloading auger of a combine is turned out to unload, these augers could come in contact with a sagging power line or electrical connection on a power pole. Take time to look over the area before extending the boom. Stay at least 30 feet from all power lines power poles.
10. Extension Cords and Temporary Feeds
Extension cords should be equipped with ground connections and plugged into three-pronged, grounded outlets. When in outdoor and wet locations, these cords should be plugged into GFCI outlets. Tape connection points between outlet plugs to keep out moisture and dirt. If extension cords are crossing an area that vehicles will be traveling over, install the cord in a steel pipe and sink it below ground level to protect the cord from damage. If extension cords show any signs of wear or fraying, dispose of the cord and replace it. Never wind an extension cord while it is plugged in. If there happens to be a bare wire somewhere along the cord and you touch it while winding the cord, you could be electrocuted.