It is no secret that farming is among the most dangerous occupations.
There are still a lot of 2023 crops standing in the field. Harvest time is especially hazardous because of the long hours and variety of tasks that must be accomplished.
Keeping safety top of mind can prevent careless, costly mistakes, and help increase overall productivity.
“First and foremost, it starts with a clean machine,” said Jim Franceschetti, Case IH parts and service product manager. “Every day, using an air compressor to blow away dirt and debris from the header and the feeder house, and keeping your residue management system as clean as possible is important.”
Having a checklist in mind or even printed out to complete every day can help.
“I like to go front to back, top to bottom,” Franceschetti said.
“Start by looking for foreign material or debris and then inspect the header or cutter bar. Look in the feeder house to make sure the chains have proper tension and there are no loose or fraying belts. Lift the side panels, look at the concaves, and rasp bars, and then lubricate as recommended.”
Franceschetti reminds farmers to keep windows clean for good visibility of other people and obstacles in the field.
“You want to be able to use all your senses. You must be able to see, and to listen for things that may be damaged or worn. You can rely on your nose if you smell burnt rubber or oil,” he said.
Field terrain can be uneven, and parts can jar loose or break during use, so being aware of all the information your senses provide is crucial to knowing you have a safe machine.
“It’s a good time to dust off that operator’s manual,” Franceschetti said. “They have plenty of direction and suggestions for preventive maintenance, some daily and some based on hours.”
Carefully following your manufacturer’s recommendations for lubrication and other service tasks will help ensure your machine is running at peak condition. Learning about and using all the safety features is also very important.
“Check that all your signage, lights, mirrors, and shields are in the correct place and not dislocated or broken, especially if you’re traveling on the road,” Franceschetti said.
Pay attention to high-wear parts and replace them as soon as possible.
“During harvest, things like belts, chains, knives, these are all used heavily. If they get broken or appear worn, do not wait to replace, both for safety and efficiency of your machine,” Franceschetti said.
With less sunlight during the harvest months, good lighting in the field is critical. Having proper lighting will help you work as long as necessary but in a safe manner.
“Most of the newer lights are LED, and if you’re running older equipment, you can usually retrofit your lights to LED,” Franceschetti said. “Not only are they more efficient, but they make it more comfortable for the operator to be able to see better after sunset.”
He also suggests upgrading the seat and adding amenities like a cooler to make the cab as comfortable as possible.
“Keep a first aid kit on hand at all times,” Franceschetti said. “Make sure it includes treatment for burns, as there is a high potential for heat to be created on this equipment.”
Also, make sure to have a working fire extinguisher in every vehicle that is rated class BC or ABC for electrical and flammable liquids.
Wearing proper protective equipment, such as steel-toe boots, work gloves, reflective clothing, and safety glasses will help protect from injuries.