November 9, 2021
Matt Surdick, health and safety manager at CHS, provides tips to prioritize farm safety during colder weather.
As we begin to put the 2021 season in the rearview mirror and prepare for colder weather, there are special farm safety precautions that are particularly important during the fall and winter months, says Matt Surdick, CHS health and safety manager. Taking these precautions can help alleviate “line of fire” hazards, which may cause a worker to be hit, impaled or crushed between objects.
“Staying safe often comes down to things like body positioning and hand placement,” says Surdick. “Being in the line of fire means being in the direct path of where something could go. For example, if I’m using a wrench and I’m pulling on that wrench, where is my body placement? If I’m pulling that wrench toward myself, what happens if it slips? All of a sudden I put myself into a potential injury situation — the line of fire.”
Farmers, ranchers and farm workers should be mindful of the task they are performing and to be clear about what it is they’re trying to accomplish.
“Farm workers should consider things like, ‘Am I in the best position?,’ and ‘What am I exposing myself to if something should go wrong?,’” says Surdick. “Often, it’s the things you don’t expect that can catch you and strike your body or hands. Slow down, think about what you’re doing and make sure you’re in the right spot to do the job safely.”
Prepare for grain bin risks
If you’re still handling grain, Surdick recommends not entering a grain bin if possible. But if necessary, make sure you’re locking them out; in other words, isolating all energy sources to protect yourself while you’re in the bin.
“Isolating energy sources means shutting off the augers that might be pulling out that grain from the bin and the conveyers that might be feeding that bin,” says Surdick. “We recommend never entering grain bins, but if you do it’s important to watch for bridging and have a second person who can be your attendant in case anything goes wrong. It all comes down to preparation and looking for anything that can increase risk of injury.”
Be snow and ice aware
Fall weather is quite mild in many areas now, but things can change overnight, says Surdick, which makes preparation even more important.
“Look at the organization of your farm equipment, machinery parts, materials and implements around your operation,” says Surdick. “Are they in easily accessible locations if they happen to get buried in snow or ice? Be sure to have adequate ice melt and shovels on hand and place them strategically around your farm for easy access.”
Surdick also stresses the importance of protective equipment like ice cleats to enhance mobility and help prevent falls.
“You can put ice cleats in the midsoles of your boots and leave them on all winter long,” he notes. “That way, when you’re coming out of your shed or shop, you can rotate that cleat down to give yourself extra protection When you come in from the cold, you can rotate the cleats up again and still walk safely in the shop.”
Lastly, Surdick recommends marking stored implements around your operation to help avoid them when snowplowing. “When you’re pushing snow around, things obviously get buried,” he says. “Having those items marked will make them recognizable and obvious, which helps you get to them easier and promotes a safer environment.”