Keep farm safety top of mind this spring

April 5, 2022
Make sure you’re ready to (safely) roll this spring. Matt Surdick, CHS health and safety manager, provides farm safety tips for the 2022 growing season.

In the peak of a busy planting season, make time to slow down to follow farm safety best practices, says Matt Surdick, CHS health and safety manager. He offers easy-to-implement safety checks to help keep you and those working on your operation safe during the busy season.

“We’re all familiar with the risks that are inherent in farming, including soft shoulders on roads, always changing weather, tight windows and fatigue,” Surdick notes. “But one risk that deserves additional focus is rushing — the urge to hurry up and get things done. Rushing can lead to not thinking through the task at hand or taking a shortcut to save a little time, both of which can result in incidents. It’s important to slow down and thoughtfully manage the processes you go through on a day-to-day basis in order to stay safe.”

Tips for minimizing risk

Minimizing risk often comes down to being prepared, says Surdick. “Make sure you have a plan,” he says. “Usually when we rush to accomplish things within our operation, it’s because we have an overwhelming feeling of needing to get everything done at once. Having a plan helps make tasks more manageable.”

Another factor in risk management is proper maintenance of equipment and accessories. “When we start rushing, it tends to be because our equipment start to break down,” says Surdick. “It’s important to have a good maintenance plan, and to make sure things like lights and reflectors are maintained so that when we get into the season, equipment operates smoothly.”

The last factor is communication. “Know who’s in and around equipment when you’re in the field and working around the farm,” says Surdick. “Make sure you’re communicating with the people who are working with you so that they know what you’re doing and vice versa. That can help you achieve a safer working environment for everyone involved.”

On the road: Tractor safety and more

Moving equipment from field to field during the season also brings potential safety hazards. “Navigating soft shoulders and field entrances can often lead to safety issues,” Surdick notes. Another possible hazard is operating tractors and machinery on the road at dawn and dusk. Keep lights and reflectors in good working order so drivers can be aware of farmers on the road.

“One thing we talk about at CHS is ACT,” says Surdick, “which stands for anticipate, concentrate and take action.”

  • Anticipate: When you’re on the road, watch for other vehicles around you.
  • Concentrate: Eliminate distractions like cellphones and radios and keep your focus on the road.
  • Take action: Drive defensively and be sure you have the ability to maneuver your equipment and protect yourself.

Tips for your health and well-being

When you’re focused on getting the job done, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. But that’s a critical part of staying safe while farming, says Surdick.

“Make sure you’re taking care of your body—getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, drinking the right liquids and generally taking care of yourself and ensuring that you truly have downtime,” Surdick says. “It’s when you push yourself too far that fatigue can set in and mistakes and incidents can happen. While we want to be able to get the job done, we also want to take care of our well-being.”