Tips to stay safe on the farm during harvest

September 19, 2023
Vickie Kilgore, senior risk management consultant at Nationwide, provides advice and resources to help maintain health and safety on the farm during harvest.

As another busy harvest season begins, farm safety is more import than ever. Vickie Kilgore, senior risk management consultant at Nationwide, a major insurer of U.S. farms and ranches, discusses how farmers can prevent injuries and look out for the wellbeing of themselves, their families and their employees.

Think ahead to avoid accidents

One of the best approaches to help avoid injury on the farm is thinking through how to make tasks safer ahead of time, Kilgore says.

“When we’re in the middle of harvest, stress levels are high and farmers are working long hours,” she says. “Realizing that we might be fatigued and giving ourselves extra time to think about something before we do it can help prevent accidents. Thinking about how we can stay safe around grain bins or making sure hair is pulled back so it doesn’t get caught in the equipment are just a couple of examples of how farmers can think ahead.”

Kilgore also encourages farmers to ensure equipment is safe and in good working order. Preparation can include making sure machinery is equipped with reflective tape to improve visibility, securing safety emblems and shields and checking headlights and turning signals.

Keep physical and mental well-being top of mind

Keeping bodies and minds in shape is also vital to a successful harvest season. To avoid injuries, Kilgore suggests farmers find ways to avoid or assist common repetitive tasks.

“Whether it’s operating a tractor, harvesting crops or milking cows, you should be thinking about what you’re doing repetitively. Is there a way you can take a break to stretch in the middle of doing repetitive tasks? Can we leave what we’re doing to perform a task that uses a different muscle group? Can we get help to do heavy lifting?”

Kilgore also acknowledges how mental health can impact overall well-being. From uncertain weather to fluctuating market prices, working in agriculture includes uncertainty.

“Agriculture is one of the most stressful occupations. Aside from the unpredictable hurdles farmers must overcome, it can also be very isolating geographically and socially,” she says. “The first step is acknowledging when something is a problem. From there, make sure you’re taking breaks when needed and reaching out for help if you need extra support. It can be difficult to do, but it’s important to your overall health and the health of the whole family.”

Youth farm safety

“The best way to keep kids safe on the farm depends on their age,” explains Kilgore. “If you have really young kids, say, age 8 and below, make sure they have a fenced-in area they can go to for play with close supervision.”

For older kids, “It’s about making sure they have clear instructions for the age-appropriate jobs and they understand the dangers,” Kilgore says. “Even when they’re teenagers, it’s really about observing to make sure they’re staying safe, since they may not comprehend all the risks of a job.”

Kilgore also emphasized the importance of safety around four-wheelers and ATVs, including insisting kids wear proper helmets and safety equipment and are using a size-appropriate vehicle.

Where to find more information on farm safety

Kilgore recommends the following safety resources:

harvesting corn at night