Harvest corn Zoerb 2016

Corn is dumped into a grain truck in this 2016 photo taken in eastern Custer County, Nebr.

This is always an exciting time of year as the weather starts to cool off, crops are drying down, and harvest 2020 is starting. In the coming weeks, we are going to see a lot of activity across the area that includes long days and late nights for producers.

Harvest is always a stressful and rewarding time of the growing season, and this year has been difficult for many producers experiencing drought stress, storm damage, uncertain commodity prices, and illness from the pandemic.

This is a reminder to take a few extra minutes and think about harvest safety this fall.

One of the most important things you can do on your operation is to have good communication. While this may seem like a no-brainer, accidents happen when poor communication occurs.

It’s important that everyone involved at harvest time knows what the general plans are for the day, including field location, time, equipment needed, and back up plans in case something changes.

Having a list of worker’s phone numbers and emergency phone numbers (i.e. fire department, 911, etc.) in all vehicles or in a central location can save a lot of time if an accident occurs.

Make sure your equipment has slow moving vehicle signs, reflective tape, fire extinguishers, operating “back-up” sirens (if applicable), safety shields on fast-moving parts, and handrails.

Some of these newer combines have safety features that turn off the reel or head when you get out of the cab. If your combine doesn’t have these features, use common sense and turn off the head or auger when working on your equipment.

As 2020 has been a dry year, it is not out of the question to have potential fire hazards this harvest season. Two ABC-type fire extinguishers are great to have on hand: one 5-lb extinguisher in the cab of the combine, and one 20-lb model at the ground level. Having a fire extinguisher in the truck or tractor cab is also essential as sometimes the person on the ground might notice a fire starting before the person in the combine does.

Another essential thing to have is someone following you when moving equipment between fields, especially on busy highways. I can remember many nights following the combine home after a long day of harvest.

The last thing is personal safety. Make sure to wear good work boots with slip-resistant soles and heels. While face masks have been an everyday occurrence in 2020, wearing one this fall in dusty working conditions will help reduce the amount of dirt, dust, and debris from entering your lungs.

Wear proper hearing and ear protection, especially around augers and grain bin fans.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat regularly, and take breaks when needed to ensure sharp mental focus.

Finally, make sure to wear proper clothing that won’t get caught in moving parts and is easy to see. As the wife of a plumber, I will admit it took some time to get used to the bright yellow and orange work shirts. However, the more I hear about accidents on the farm, the more I have come to appreciate the vibrant colors. Accidents happen. Make sure people can see you when you’re working around large equipment.

I hope everyone has a safe and successful harvest season, and for everyone driving to work in the morning, be patient and give a wave to the farmers this fall.

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