Harvest Safety Tips

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      Plan for an injury and incident-free harvest season. Develop a safety plan for the fall and include:
      • team communications
      • any training/operator refresher courses etc.
      • maintenance schedules
      • emergency procedures in place and reviewed by entire team
      • expectations such as wearing personal protective equipment, checking in regularly and compliance with safety protocol procedures (such as shutting down equipment before unplugging, taking regular breaks, working with a buddy on specific tasks)

      Most harvest injuries and fatalities involve machinery and equipment.
      • Be extra vigilant when re-familiarizing yourself with equipment such as swathers, mowers, combines and augers. Never become complacent with equipment.
      • Ensure implements are attached or hitched properly and in good working order.
      • Review operation manuals and follow maintenance guidelines.
      • Ensure all guards and shields are in place and secure.
      • Watch for changes in terrain such as holes, ruts or debris that may cause upsets or roll overs.

      Harvest season is busy and can be stressful. Pay close attention to fatigue, drowsiness and illness. Do not rely on stimulants to keep workers going or depressants to calm nerves. Never operate equipment while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

      Ensure safe transport of equipment on public roadways.
      • Be aware of motorists.
      • Follow all rules of the road.
      • Ensure all lights and reflectors are in place and good working order. A slow-moving vehicle emblem should be in place and visible from the rear.
      • Return equipment to transport mode. This makes it as narrow as possible.
      • Check your route before transport to ensure equipment fits safely under power lines and over bridges or culverts that need to be crossed.

      Keep children safe this harvest season. Do not allow children around machinery. Tragedies occur when youngsters are in the path of equipment and operators have a restricted view, or when they are playing in a worksite with hazards such as grain, augers and PTOs.

      Harvest safety specifics:
      • Never attempt to dislodge stalks or grain sheaves with your feet or hands while the combine is running. Always shut down the combine and turn off the ignition before removing plugged or lodged material.
      • Most combine adjustments should be made with the machine shut off to avoid injury to the operator or bystanders.
      • Don’t rely on hydraulic cylinders to hold the header up. Use locks or solid blocks to stabilize the header while working beneath it.
      • Augers can present several safety risks for farmers and workers, including entanglement in the auger shaft, electrocution from touching overhead power lines and being crushed by the auger if it unexpectedly collapses.
      • Keep all shields in place and warn workers about the dangers of entanglement. Never use your hand or foot to dislodge grain that is plugging an auger.
      • Move the auger with a tractor or other vehicle to avoid upending due to shift in centre of gravity. Level the ground where the auger sits to reduce side-to-side rocking.
      • Once in position, both ends of the auger should be supported before operation. Crank the auger down far enough so the top of the auger rests on the grain bin and block the wheels in place.
      • Frequently inspect and replace any cables or support legs that are worn or damaged.
      • Keep area around auger free from tools and other objects to prevent someone from tripping and falling into an auger.
      • Never ride, or allow children to ride on grain wagons. There is a risk of falling off or into the grain.
      • Flowing grain can quickly trap and suffocate a child or worker.
      • The walls of a container of grain can collapse and bury a person. This can result in suffocation.
      • To avoid entanglements, always disengage power and turn off the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine.
      • Always keep protective guards and shields in place. Beware of slips or falls that could place anyone near the machine intake area.
      Slips, trips and falls:
      • Always keep all platforms free of tools or other objects. Frequently clean the steps and other areas where workers stand to service, mount and dismount, or operate the machine.
      • Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.
      • Be sure your position is stable before you perform maintenance.
      • Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol and age and physical abilities may affect stability.
      Human factor:
      • Safe completion of any task depends on knowledge, alertness and hazard awareness.
      • Fatigue, drowsiness and illness can lead to mishaps in the field. Recognize when you have had enough and turn the operation over to someone else.
      • Equipment operators should be dressed for comfort and safety. Protective footwear and close-fitting clothes are essentials when working in and around machinery. Wear appropriate safety gear if noise, dust or toxic materials pose hazards.
      Alberta Farm Safety Program
      Email: farm.safety@gov.ab.ca
      or toll-free: 310-FARM (3276)

      Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Farm Safety Staff:
      Janice Donkers, Youth Coordinator: janice.donkers@gov.ab.ca
      Kenda Lubeck, Awareness Coordinator: kenda.lubeck@gov.ab.ca
      Raelyn Peterson, Coordinator: raelyn.d.peterson@gov.ab.ca
      Sharon Stollery, Manager: sharon.stollery@gov.ab.ca
      Blair Takahashi, Specialist: blair.takahashi@gov.ab.ca
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    For more information about the content of this document, contact Kenda Lubeck.
    This information published to the web on August 20, 2013.
    Last Reviewed/Revised on November 6, 2018.