Staying Safe on the Farm

We have crossed the invisible threshold into spring. While Mother Nature may not be as sure, and we will have some days that feel like winter, we are in the home stretch of the wintry weather and warmer days are ahead.

Those of us in agriculture know that those warmer days mean longer days. Our busy days are just ahead of us, and they come with long hours. Let us face it, our workload is grueling in the spring. I know it is what we all live for but that does not make it any less demanding.

We have also all heard that farming and ranching are among the most dangerous professions in the world, right after coal mining. We all know someone who has been the victim of a farm accident, and if it has not been us, we have all had those instances when we had a near miss.

I do not care how careful you are – all it takes is a split second for an accident to happen. Now mix in long hours, fatigue and being in a rush to get ahead of the weather and the chances of an accident increase dramatically. I know because I was involved in an accident this winter.

I do not want to get into the details, I relive them often enough as it is. No permanent injury occurred, but it could have been much worse. That is what haunts me yet. It was a split second. My brain was screaming at me that the situation was bad, but I could not do anything about it.

Like most accidents this one was preventable and should never have happened. I like to think I am a safe operator. I taught tractor safety for years. I know better. None of that matters in the instant an accident happens.

Can we prevent all accidents? That answer, unfortunately, is no. Parts break, unexpected things happen but we can do our best to make sure that we are as prepared as we can be. Remember to rest. I would guess fatigue causes a significant percentage of all farm accidents. We all think we are superhuman and we can just push through when the reality is just a few minutes of rest can be a life saver.

The other factor is being in a rush. So much of what we do is dependent on the weather and timing. We always feel rushed to plant, work ground, bale hay, harvest, the list goes on. Being in a hurry is the hardest thing to correct. That clock in our brain is telling us to hurry up, and that is when the accident happens. Take a deep breath and slow down. Those extra moments will not make a significant difference on the crop, but they could save your life.

I am grateful the accident I was involved in was not as bad as it could have been, and I send up a prayer of thanks every day for that. It was a warning. One I’m sharing with all my fellow farmers and ranchers. So, this spring, slow down, rest when you need to and, please, stay safe.
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“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.

Glenn Brunkow is a Pottawatomie County farmer and rancher