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Take breaks, keep phone and radio nearby when working alone

Published Sep. 24, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

All Jim Westfall wanted to do was clean up his tractor and get the lime off it. But the way he did it almost killed him.

“The doctor said I was lucky to be alive,” said the Miami County Farm Bureau member who has farmed all his life. “I thought my experience was scary enough that I wanted to share my story and let others know during this harvest season.”

Last fall Westfall had lime plowed into his field and decided to clean his tractor a few days later. Because it was chilly out, he didn’t use his power washer but a long nozzle air hose, which stirred up the lime dust and he breathed it in. Westfall said he felt like he was going to pass out and managed to make it back to the house where a caretaker was looking after his mother-in-law. She insisted he go to the ER.

There, the doctor had to call a specialist to figure out how to get the lime out of Westfall’s lungs. With time, the lime would turn into paste and burn the interior of his lungs. He breathed in a solution, which helped wash the lime out of his lungs.

“I never gave washing (the lime) with an air hose a thought. I’ve told a few neighbors and they’re never heard of the danger – not even the guy who put the lime on,” said Westfall, who has since recovered.

Dee Jepsen, a farm safety expert at Ohio State University Extension, said that with the start of harvest season farmers need to be careful, make sure they know how their equipment operates and be prepared to handle any type of emergency. Statistics show that workplace fatalities in the farming industry rose by 11 percent last year to a total of 651 deaths in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries. The increase was led by worker deaths in production, which rose 18 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many farm-related traumatic injuries are caused by tractor accidents, accounting for an average of 96 deaths annually, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

“The tractor is always the bad boy of state fatalities,” Jepsen said noting that the state has averaged 23 fatalities over a 10-year period.

“Farmers need to have the mindset that anything can happen to them anytime, and they need to be prepared for all situations,” she said. “Things on the farm should be run the same way as a business – there should be scheduled breaks.“

Farmers often have the luxury of working alone and not having anybody looking over their shoulders, Jepsen said. The drawback is that often they are alone and don’t have anybody to help them in an emergency. Jepsen recommends farmers carry not only cell phones but two-way radios in case phone coverage is spotty. They should tell a friend or family member where they will be and have a designated time to check in. Farmers should have a first aid kit, complete with bee sting ointment, sun block and pain medicine, and directions to the nearest emergency facility with them at all times.

Workers shouldn’t take shortcuts or overexert themselves as it starts to get dark, Jepsen said.

“While farmers have the training and understanding they need for their job, they also need to recognize their own limitations,” she said.

Rollover prevention

  • Steep slopes — back up
  • Uneven ground — check ground for debris, rocks, etc.
  • Stuck or mired wheels — avoid wet/muddy fields
  • Front end loaders — keep loads low; Tractors — hitch low and only to draw bar

Most rollover injuries can be prevented or reduced if a tractor has a ROPS (rollover protective structure) and the driver wears a seatbelt. The ROPS alone will not protect a person. The driver must wear the seatbelt to keep within the “protected zone” of the ROPS in the event of a rollover. Tractors without a ROPS should not have a seatbelt.

Source: National Ag Safety Database



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