The summer months are a busy time for farmers. Tractors and trucks are constantly coming and going from the farm, workers are out in the sun all day and families are in and out of the house enjoying the summer weather. Along with this increased level of activity comes a large number of risks associated with outdoor activities. Farmers, farm workers and families should prepare themselves and their farms for the hazards associated with warmer weather.
With planting and harvest season comes increased farm machinery travel on rural roads. Rural crashes are more usually severe than urban crashes and typically involve tractors. It is important to display the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem on all off-road vehicles and ensure they are properly mounted to the vehicle. Proper lighting is essential, and it is recommended that two flashing amber lights are mounted in both the front and rear of the vehicle. Hitches should be inspected before towing equipment or using wagons and safety chains should always be used.
The risk of fire increases during the dry summer months. To avoid the risk of fire, it is important to make sure exhaust systems are free of leaks and are in good working order. Hot machinery should not be parked near dry grass or other vegetation. Regularly cleaning off chaff, dust and other combustible materials along with following maintenance schedules not only helps to prevent fires, but is also good practice for keeping equipment in good repair. Fire extinguishers should be kept on tractors and combines and near all farm machinery and in buildings.
It is important for farmers to take measures to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Skin-protection products play an important role in guarding against skin cancer and sunburn. Sunscreen should be used and reapplied throughout the day when working outside. Having designated areas and water available for workers to cool off helps to avoid heat-related illnesses. During excessive heat situations, outdoor activity should be limited to the cooler hours of the day, in the morning and the evening. Farmers and farm workers should take frequent breaks in the shade or an air conditioned area, and should drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drinking soda or alcoholic beverages can cause dehydration and should be avoided in the high heat. Wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, a hat and sunglasses helps to protect the body from overheating and from the sun’s harmful rays. Using a buddy system on hot days can help both parties ensure adequate water consumption, alleviate workload and detect early signs of heat related illness. Everyone on the farm should carry a cell phone so help can be contacted should an emergency situation arise.
Extreme heat can also be harmful towards livestock, and can result in reduced production, heat-related illnesses and even death. Animals should have access to cool, clean water and shaded areas. Spraying animals with sprinklers helps to cool them down. Shifting feeding times to later in the day helps to alleviate stress on the animals. Handling animals should be avoided if possible, as working with animals can elevate body temperature.
While the warmer weather may be a busier time for farmers, it does not have to be more dangerous. Being prepared for the high heat of the summer helps protects the farmer, farm workers, livestock and farm.