Planning helps keep harvest safe

Multiple combines are ready to hit the field near Invermay, Sask. on Oct. 11, 2018. (Michael Fidek/Supplied)

Harvest is a stressful time of year — things have to get done, but it’s not a time for cutting corners when it comes to farm safety.

That’s the message Rob Gobeil, health and safety specialist for the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association (CASA), shared when he visited with RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney earlier this week. He says there are a number of things that should be done to protect farmers, their families and employees during harvest.

For Gobeil, it all starts with an operations checklist: make sure your equipment is in good working condition; for grain farmers that means harvesting equipment is cleaned out and fire extinguishers are charged up, ready to go and readily available.

In the cab, Gobeil says to keep it clean; don’t let those coffee cups pile up and keep those pop bottles from finding the floor and potentially rolling under a foot pedal that could impair braking. It’s also important to eat healthy, stay hydrated and get some rest when you need it.

When it comes to managing the workload some pre-harvest planning will help. “Line up an extra person to relief pitch or pull an extra shift,” advises Gobeil.

Grain entrapment is a significant hazard at harvest and a major focus area for CASA. To help prevent tragedies, Gobeil emphasizes the importance of prepping bins to ensure they are cleaned out, unnecessary debris is removed, augers and sweeps are in good working order, and guards are in place.

“Once we start putting product in the bin we have to be aware that it is a confined space,” says Gobeil, who notes the main cause of entrapment, is grain quality.

Grain in poor condition tends to crust up on the surface and scale up on the sidewalls when the bin is emptied. “That’s when people attempt to go into the bin and get in trouble.” (Story continues after the interview.)

If farmers have to enter bins, he says to not work alone. “Always have an attendant on the outside who is knowledgable in safety procedures and emergency protocols. That way they can power down the equipment if you are in trouble and initiate a rescue.”

According to Gobeil, it’s also important for the attendant to not perform the rescue. “If you see somebody in trouble inside of a grain bin, do not go in after them. Call 911. Get your first responders underway and we can get that person out safely using the proper techniques.”

Haney notes that often guards are removed during harvest as farmers rush to be more efficient. Gobeil agrees that sometimes clogs happen and guards do get removed, but it’s crucial that they be replaced to maintain safety. Entanglements are extremely hazardous and produce high fatality rates.

“It only takes a split second once someone starts to get entangled for them to be in some serious troubles,” stresses Gobeil. “When we’re working with augers and rotating parts, we want to make sure we’re wearing fairly snug fitting clothes; we don’t want to have any jewelry hanging and it’s a great idea to remove rings off your fingers.”

Leave the bling at home. There are no style points during harvest.