Harvest is a busy and often hectic time for farmers and agricultural workers because crops ripen on their own time schedule. More workers, more equipment, and a compressed time schedule for harvest increases the potential for accidents and injuries. Employers and workers can increase safety by inspecting the worksite, training employees, and maintaining equipment before harvest work begins.
Employers can plan for a safe harvest by conducting worksite inspections of maintenance sheds and fields. Identified hazards should be corrected or communicated to workers. Correcting hazards may require repairs, retrofits, or even new equipment for the harvest. Communicating hazards may include instructing workers on existing field conditions such as overhead electrical lines, steep slopes, and other hazardous situations. Inspections also help identify worker training and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs that should be completed before harvest begins.
Training before harvest prepares workers to safely operate and maintain the equipment they use. Workers should be instructed on the specific hazards associated with their harvest machinery. Caught and crush (entanglement) injuries are the highest hazard of harvest work and should be emphasized so workers take precautions to avoid them.
To avoid entanglement, workers should secure hair and clothing, use proper lockout/tagout procedures, and never clean, maintain, adjust, or clear jams on equipment that is operating or powered. Workers should stay clear of discharge spouts, fans, conveyors, and other moving equipment parts to avoid projectile injuries. Workers should be instructed not to walk or stand between harvesting machines because the operator often has a limited line of sight. Because harvest work often occurs in the dark before dawn and after sunset, additional lighting may be required to allow for the safe movement of workers and machinery. Employers should strictly enforce a “no-ride” policy on all powered farm equipment.
Workers also need training on the use and maintenance of the PPE necessary for harvest. Required PPE may include work boots, gloves, coveralls, hard hats, eye protection, hearing protection, and respiratory protection. To prepare workers for field safety, they need training on first aid, sun protection, heat/cold stress, and the bugs and animals they may encounter. Ergonomic safety and procedures should be emphasized to eliminate strains and sprains. Workers should get as much sleep as possible and avoid alcohol and stimulants that could impair judgment and reaction times.
Preparing equipment prior to harvest ensures that it is in good shape for the heavy workload. It should be inspected for proper guarding and all worn parts should be repaired or replaced. Keeping extra parts on hand during harvest allows quick equipment repairs so employees are less likely to “make do” with broken machinery. Harvesting equipment should not be used unless it is in proper working order.
Employers and harvest workers can prepare now to “make hay while the sun shines” and maintain worker safety and health at the same time.
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The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.
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