Capital Press | Farm and Ranch Safety Capital Press Sun, 23 Aug 2015 14:43:37 -0400 en Capital Press | Farm and Ranch Safety How to stay safe when working with machinery Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:40:15 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Agriculture is a hazardous occupation, and machinery is the No. 1 risk for accidents, says Tom Karsky, Extension Farm Safety Specialist at the University of Idaho.

“Review the owner’s manual if you haven’t used a machine for a while, like at the beginning of the season. While working on a piece of equipment, always turn it off so you won’t get tangled in moving parts — unless you must leave it run to do some trouble-shooting,” he says.

Fatigue can also be a safety issue on the farm.

“Get plenty of rest. Take breaks when working long hours. If you feel drowsy, take a few breaks rather than try to push through to get the job finished. Short, frequent breaks can keep you from dozing off or not being fully alert,” Karsky says.

In hot weather, drink plenty of fluid. Heat stress is a risk. Air conditioned cabs help, but some tasks leave you out in the sun or in a super-hot environment if a cab doesn’t have air conditioning that works. It is important to stay hydrated.

“Do the maintenance required to keep equipment working properly and safely. Repair something after it breaks down, rather than just a temporary fix to get by. Replace guards or shields after they’ve been removed to work on machinery. Sometimes PTO shields get damaged and lose their effectiveness. Those should be replaced,” he says.

When working around fast-moving parts, be careful about what you are wearing.

“Shoe laces, strings on a hooded sweatshirt, or loose clothing may get entangled in the PTO or other moving parts,” Karsky says. Often it’s the clothing that is grabbed.

“If you are working with a loader, keep it low when moving the equipment. Driving with the loader up raises the center of gravity; the machine is more at risk for tipping over,” he says, adding that a raised loader is also more likely to hit a power line.

“Power lines can be problems with loaders, augers, bale elevators, combines or anything that sticks up very high,” he says. “If there’s a power line in your barnyard, try to work around it so you don’t have to go under it.”

A power line to a barn or shop may be lower than the regular power line.

Sometimes when a problem occurs with machinery we do things we shouldn’t, thinking we can fix it quickly, like climbing up on a bale wagon to rearrange bales that didn’t stack correctly, while the machine is running.

“It takes time to turn it off, and people think they can do it in a hurry. You may get away with it for a while but sometime not,” he said. As farmers get older, reflexes, strength and balance aren’t as good.

“The risks we took when we were younger are more dangerous now,” he said.

“When somebody new is operating equipment, teach him how to operate it properly, and go with him for the first hour or two — especially if there is some little quirk with that particular machine. It may work fine for someone who is using it all the time and knows how to deal with that quirk, but if another person doesn’t know that you have to push a lever forward instead of back, it may cause an accident.”

Be aware of where other people might be.

“Don’t allow riders on farm implements unless required for operation or training. Never allow children to ride on or walk near moving implements, trailers or wagons, and never allow anyone to walk closer than 6 feet of any harvesting equipment that is running,” Karsky said. “A little foresight and paying attention to what’s happening around you can often prevent a farm accident.”

How to stay safe when handling cattle Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:37:30 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Handling cattle can be safe or dangerous, depending on many factors.

Shannon Williams, Lemhi County Extension Educator with the University of Idaho, says it’s important to make sure corrals and facilities are in good repair and working properly.

“Take time to replace broken boards, poles, re-hang a gate, remove boards or poles lying along the fence, grease the equipment, clean the walkways — the alley to the chute for the cattle, and walkways along the chute for the people helping,” Williams says.

In winter, remove snow where you have to open or shut gates or the ice on a walkway. You want footing to be safe for people as well as the cattle, she says.

“Most of us don’t take time to talk to the crew about what we are doing. Make a plan and discuss it. If you work cattle with the same people, you know how they think, and what they are going to do, and everything usually goes smoothly. If you bring in a new person, they may not know which gate the cattle will be coming through, and might not know where to be — to not be in the way,” she says.

“Have sorting flags/sticks for everyone helping with sorting, so they don’t have to use a broken fence pole to poke cattle or wave their arms and yell. Low stress, quiet cattle handling makes things safer for the animals and the people handling them,” she says. “Work at cow speed (thinking in terms of cow time, not human time). Make sure you allow enough time for the job, so no one has to hurry.”

If you work cattle slowly, and not get them upset, it saves time and is safer in the long run, she says.

If cattle flow through the facility smoothly and quietly and you don’t have to get one back in that runs past the gate or through the chute and gets away, this saves time and cattle are less likely to run over people.

“When vaccinating, make sure the people doing it know how to handle the vaccine. If a person accidentally gets injected with blackleg vaccine, or medication is splashed into their eyes, take them to the doctor — along with the vaccine\product label, to have the serial number, so the doctor can find out what the human risk might be. Have a first aid kit on hand. Know what to do in case of a medical emergency,” Williams says.

“If some animals are more flighty or aggressive, handle them with care, and give everyone a heads-up warning when they come through,” she says. Bulls should always be handled carefully.

Make sure the people helping know how to handle cattle properly.

“If some folks helping don’t have a clue, or you are stuck with them for the day, give them an easy job, out of harm’s way, like the record-keeping,” she says.

“Before you start working cattle, have everything planned. Talk to your crew. If everyone knows their job, things go smoother,” she says.

“If you have to load and haul cattle, don’t try to cram that extra animal into the trailer. If someone is fighting with the trailer gate this can be dangerous,” Williams says.

When sorting cattle in a corral or alley, be aware that if an animal kicks or rams into a gate, it may fly back and hit someone. Fatalities have occurred when people got hit in the head by a fast-moving metal gate. Think ahead and be aware of potential hazards — and what might happen under various circumstances.

Think ahead to stay safe around horses Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:36:55 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Safety awareness and thinking ahead are crucial when working with horses, says Susan Dudasik of Misfit Farms in Salmon, Idaho.

She teaches horsemanship as a registered instructor with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

“We all wear helmets here,” she says. Head injuries are the most serious risk with horse accidents, and a helmet can prevent a bad outcome.

“People need to be ‘present’ and aware when working around horses, especially the horses they are familiar with, and not take things for granted. Many accidents happen with old reliable horses just because someone wasn’t paying attention,” Dudasik says. “Keep an eye on what’s going on, and think ahead.”

Make a habit of demanding that the horse respect your personal space.

“When we go out to the pasture to catch ours, they come crowding around us. Everyone here has learned to have an ‘alpha’ horse attitude. When you tell a horse to back up, he needs to do it,” she says.

“We are aware of the horses’ personalities and how they interact. The alpha horse may chase timid ones over the top of a person when you are out in the pasture. We don’t want anyone getting hurt because a horse is not being respectful,” she says.

When horses are led back to their pasture, they are turned loose at the same time. “We turn them around to face us, and then let them go, so they aren’t running around with the loose horses before we are safely out of their way.”

Safety around the barn includes always using a halter and lead rope to catch or move a horse.

“People sometimes use shortcuts and put a hay twine around the horse’s neck. You don’t really have control of the horse, and may burn your hand if you try to hang onto the twine if the horse takes off,” says Dudasik.

When leading a horse, hold the extra lead rope in neat loops, not a coil that could wrap around your arm or wrist if the horse pulled away.

“Wear proper shoes — not sandals, flip-flops, or sneakers. Then if the horse steps on your foot he’s less apt to injure it,” she explains.

“Don’t walk under the neck of a tied horse. If he startles and sets back you could be injured. Take time to walk around him instead,” she explains.

Don’t bend down right in front of the horse. If he picks up a foot, his knee comes forward and may hit you in the face.

Other tips: Think ahead. Be prepared for any action a horse might take. Don’t be in the way.

Always let the horse know when you approach, so you won’t startle him if he’s dozing. “We feed horses out of big tubs, and one pony gets so intent on eating that she can’t see you coming. I’ve seen her nearly jump out of her skin. We had to make everyone here aware of this — realizing that when her head is down in that tub in the manger she can’t see you coming,” says Dudasik.

Check your tack before you ride. Tighten the cinch before you get on, so the saddle won’t turn as you mount. Check it again after you’ve ridden awhile or you may find the saddle slipping.

“Keep a hand on the reins as you mount, so you could stop the horse if he tries to move. Some people just grab onto the saddle horn to climb on, and don’t hold onto the reins — and then have no control of the horse that is walking away,” she says.

Safety is an important issue for everyone on the farm Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:31:57 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Agriculture is a dangerous occupation. Accidents and injuries are always a risk when working with farm equipment or livestock, so safety awareness is important, the leader of one of the region’s largest agri-business organizations says.

Geoff Horning, executive director of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, said his group has a unique relationship with the SAIF Corp. and with Risk Management Resources.

“We want to be the center for Oregon’s agricultural safety messaging. We do this via many different angles, such as the safety DVDs we’ve created. We have a pilot program to find better ways to help small farmers adhere to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, for instance,” he said.

“Today, every farm, regardless of size, even if you just have one employee, is required to do monthly safety education — which is difficult for some of the small farms,” he said. “This is a new regulation, put in several years ago, but is now starting to be enforced. So we are trying to help people not just become compliant but also boost safety awareness.”

There are risks when handling machinery or livestock, but agriculture is also an industry with very short windows in which to get everything done. People are in a hurry to get crops planted during good weather, or the harvest in before it rains or freezes. Livestock producers have seasons where life is hectic, such as during calving or lambing.

“Human nature is to hurry. Sometimes being slow is faster,” he said. This can avoid breakdowns and longer delays, or avoid problems when handling livestock.

“Here in Oregon, the number one piece of equipment that leads to injuries and fatalities is the ATV (all-terrain vehicle), yet nationwide tractors are still the number one tool that leads to injuries,” Horning said.

People need to have more awareness of their surroundings, and know the equipment they are using — and its limitations, and the human limitations.

“Agriculture has many seasonal employees during busy times and they may not have experience with that equipment or knowledge of that particular farm. Every farm or ranch is different; there will be different hazards and concerns from a safety perspective,” he explained. “Seasonal workers who bounce from one farm to another may think they understand safety at one farm and it is completely different at the next. It is critical to train them about those safety concerns before you put them out on a certain job.”

Even the terrain is different. Someone hired to cut hay or drive harvest equipment may not know where the wet spots are, or slopes that might be hazardous. Equipment is different from one farm to the next. On one place there may be new machinery that requires training; on another farm it may be older equipment that has some glitches and idiosyncrasies that only an experienced operator understands.

“This is part of the reason we’ve created a tractor safety video. It is designed to adhere to OSHA regulations that require veteran producers to take safety training annually. There are 9 points required annually for every tractor operator to review and if they don’t, they are out of compliance,” Horner said.

“We represent all segments of agriculture, so we emphasize that every segment has its own concerns. This is the key to safety — knowing your own farm, knowing where hazardous areas exist and putting extra emphasis on safety training involving those areas,” he said.

Little things are important, too.

“Often I see farm shops where a ladder is wobbly and hinges are about to fall apart. This is an accident waiting to happen. We have to keep an eye on the small things, too, and keep everything in good repair.”

Rehab helps injured workers return to work quicker Thu, 4 Sep 2014 17:28:26 -0400 Salem Health Agri-businesses work hard to prevent on-the-job injuries for obvious reasons — claims can drive increases in workers’ compensation premiums. An injury to an experienced and skilled worker also means lost productivity, the expense of training a replacement, and the costs of low morale and absenteeism.

Ideally, preventing injuries is the way to control costs, but when injury happens, returning that worker to the job is the next best solution. Early return-to-work programs allow an employee to return to work with light duties during recovery.

If an injury requires more than just some time off, rehabilitation can help a worker recover and return to the job ready to perform at 100 percent.

Among farmworkers, sprains and strains of the low back, neck and shoulder are among the most prevalent injuries that come to Salem Health’s Work Injury Management Program. These injuries result from ergonomic challenges in the workplace — repetitive tasks, stooping or crouching for long periods and working on uneven terrain. Often, therapists see repetitive motion as a cause of injury, resulting in conditions such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and “tennis elbow.” Many of these conditions require hand therapy to support recovery.

Farmworkers can also have traumatic injuries from accidents involving equipment.

“A lot of these injuries will not optimally heal without the intervention of physical therapy,” said Juan Lopez, staff physical therapist for Salem Health’s Work Injury Management Team. “These injuries — without therapy — have the potential for complications, such as excess scarring and muscle atrophy.”

Physical therapy can correct improper body mechanics and help prevent re-injuries. Salem Health’s program focuses specifically on work-related injuries and preparing patients to return to their jobs. To make the process smoother, the program works directly with doctors and insurers, ensuring the continuity of treatment and expediting that worker’s return to work.

Work injury management offers targeted, job-specific work conditioning that helps physicians help their patients return to work in a timely fashion. Patients do work-related tasks under the close supervision of therapy staff.

Innovative equipment and job-specific materials simulate the work place. Therapists can observe the patient performing tasks specific to their job, then identify and address the factors that may have contributed to a person’s injury. Patients practice their job and strengthen key areas, so they are ready to return to work with a lower risk of re-injury.

“In our gym, for example,” said Lopez, “we incorporate cinder blocks, ladders, shovels and food service trays.”

Lopez often uses the BTE Primus RS to program therapy for the individual worker. This computer-based tool assesses and duplicates various work tasks such as using a paint sprayer, climbing a ladder, operating a jackhammer, driving a truck or tractor and operating hand controls.

Coordinating all the players that have a role in bringing an injured worker back to the job — the physician, the patient, the employer, the therapist and the insurer — can be confusing. A coordinated, one-stop shop can save money and time.

“Our goal is to help the employer receive back an employee who is empowered to perform, and, in many respects, even better than before the injury,” said Lopez.