Farm Safety Roundup, Ep. 7: Preventing machine entanglements

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Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries, with heavy machinery often being the culprit behind farm-related injuries and fatalities. Collisions and roll-overs are a major concern, but so too are machine entanglements.

In this episode of the Farm Safety Roundup, host Shaun Haney is joined by Michael Wilson, a senior health and safety consultant with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services and a machine and robotics safety specialist, to talk about the importance of understanding and preventing machine entanglements on farms.

Wilson says that entanglements happen on common equipment such as balers and combines. Power take-offs (PTOs) are particularly dangerous. He shared a chilling anecdote about a close call with a PTO, underscoring the importance of maintaining a safe distance from these high-speed components. An entanglement can happen in a fraction of a second with PTOs.

While machinery often comes equipped with safety features, Wilson cautions against complacency and the false sense of security that can arise. He emphasizes the need for routine maintenance, ensuring that guards and barriers remain intact and operational. “If the barriers aren’t in place, that’s how people can get hurt,” he warns. “And if it gets left off or it is broken, now we are exposed to what’s behind those those barriers, those guards, be it drive belts, drive chains… So [you can] get a false sense of security.”

The discussion also touches on the vital importance of lockout procedures when working on machinery, with Wilson stressing the need to deactivate hazardous energy sources to prevent accidental start-up. “When you’re working on those augers, those conveyors, go over, shut that system off. It might be an electrical breaker, it might even be an electrical plug – unplug it, snap a lock on it and put the key [to that lock] in your pocket… that’s your guarantee, it [can’t] start up,” Wilson advised.

Addressing the need for continuous vigilance, Wilson highlights the acronym “MAC” – motion, access, consequence – as a simple yet effective way for identifying mechanical hazards like entanglements. He urged farmers to remain proactive, regularly assessing their farm layouts for potential hazards and ensuring that all workers are adequately trained in safety protocols. “Stop, think, act,” Wilson emphasized. “That’s key.”

Preventing machine entanglements requires a multifaceted approach encompassing awareness, maintenance, and adherence to safety procedures. By prioritizing safety and remaining vigilant, farmers can mitigate the risks associated with heavy machinery and ensure the well-being of themselves and their workers.

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