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Attendees encouraged to keep safety in mind on farm

Staff Writer

HARRINGTON, Del. (March 14, 2017) — Delaware Ag Secretary Mike Scuse summed up Delaware Farm Bureau’s inaugural Delaware Ag Safety Conference in his opening remarks: “The message is how dangerous agriculture really is.”
Before an audience gathered at the state fairgrounds, he said we all do things that are foolish, like not taking the time to stop and think, for instance, when we start to clean off equipment before it’s completely stopped.
“If you get one thing out of this conference, learn to stop. Think. Keep shields on your equipment.”
Equipment safety
Dr. James Glancey of the University of Delaware is both a professor and an engineer. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the industry with the most injuries reported, except for mining. Agriculture is third when it comes to fatalities on the job, after construction and transportation.
“Farming is inherently dangerous,” he said. Furthermore, safety related to farming is not as regulated as other industries.
“Guards are essential in the field and in the shop, for example, with belt drives. If your equipment doesn’t have one, build one!”
He highlighted areas on equipment called “nip points” or “pinch points” which are especially dangerous. Where a rotating belt meets a pulley, it tends to draw you in, he said. Roller chains are the same.
Where two gear wheels meet, or where roller bars meet are also areas of danger.
“We become numb to hazard signs,” he lamented. “They are there to remind you of danger!”
In a shop he managed, he said, using compressed air to blow metal chips off equipment was the biggest hazard, causing eye injuries.
Safety glasses are not enough, Glancey said, even when using extended tips on the blower. He has forbidden use of compressed air that way.
One-third of farm accidents involve falls from heights. Half of those who fall more than 10 feet die. Ladders are a major cause of hazards, sending 3,000 people to the emergency room every year. “Don’t use half a step ladder. Don’t stand on top of a step ladder,” he warned.
If equipment is elevated so it can be worked on, make sure it is blocked before you crawl under it.
“Don’t let desperate times result in desperate measures. You’re asking for trouble. Most accidents occur when things deviate from normal or happen when it’s crunch time.
“Be aware of hazards. Contemplate what could go wrong first. Stop. Think.”
Grain bin safety
Ben King, risk management consultant with Nationwide, gave a slide presentation on grain bin safety. When grain is flowing, he said, if you are standing in the grain bin you have 25 seconds before you are completely engulfed. You may not even notice you are sinking if you are concentrating on your work. If you do get trapped, keep to the side and walk up the grain. Cover your mouth to provide air space. “What kills you is suffocation,” King said.
The “lock out tag out” system should be used, he said, so that no one accidentally turns an auger back on while a person is inside a bin. A safety harness, installed correctly, is a must. In 95 percent of engulfments, there was no safety harness. The rope used with a safety harness keeps a person from going too deep.
If someone with a safety harness does start to sink, do not pull him out with a tractor! That causes too much bodily damage, King said.
One of the best ways to rescue someone from a grain bin is with a coffer dam or rescue tube which comes in four pieces that can be slide into place to surround the victim. Then the grain inside is vacuumed out.
There should always be an observer who is in communication with the person inside the bin. This person should not attempt a rescue. His job is to get help.
King told of a father who was in a manure pit, trying to fix something when he passed out from the fumes. His son, standing nearby, attempted a rescue, and before it was over, four family members had died.
King offered tips on proper maintenance of grain bins and warned, if one starts to collapse, stay away.
He also noted that courts have ruled property owners are responsible for “attractive nuisances,” and must take all steps possible to keep children, especially, away from hazards. His suggestions: Lock lids. Put gates on ladders. Erect fencing. Post signs.
Ag chemical collection program
DDA Noxious Weeds Supervisor Todd Davis of the Delaware Department of Agriculture received funding for a program to dispose of agricultural chemicals. Farmers who have unwanted chemicals should not move them but call DDA, and someone will come to see how much is there and in what condition. Pick up will be in April. There is no cost to the farmer.
Davis also reported there will be an empty jug recycling center open the third Tuesday of each month from April through October at the Soil Conservation District in Georgetown. Rinsed jugs may be brought in from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Pesticide safety
Ron Jester, retired Extension safety specialist, said most problems with pesticides are as simple as not reading the label. “Pesticide safety should not be a complicated issue.” On the other hand, “If we don’t feel unsafe handling pesticides our behavior will not change.
“In my 30 years of working in safety, I have seen too many cases where a simple cardinal rule was not followed and someone died. It’s the same way with pesticides.
Purchase the lowest toxicity that will do the job.
Displaying a chart of routes of entry, Jester reminded attendees that an average-size person’s skin is made up of 20 square feet. The most common route of entry is one’s hands. The area with highest absorption rate is between the legs. Wear an apron, Jester suggested.
To prevent materials entering your lungs, wear the proper respirator. There are different models for different purposes.
Know what Personal Protective Equipment is needed. Read the Material Safety Data Sheets.
Be sure the PPE fits properly, and take care of it.
When you hire someone to operate equipment, don’t assume he knows what he is doing. And you can’t just show a video. That’s not safety training.
Unless you enforce safety rules, people will stop using them.
Jester has a lawn service business. The best investment he ever made, he said, is a back-up camera, which saves a lot of climbing in and out of the truck but is also a big safety plus.
The Delaware Ag Safety Conference was put together by Delaware Farm Bureau in partnership with Nationwide, Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware Grange and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.