Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
This may become one of the later planting seasons in memory in Minnesota. And with the clock ticking to get a crop into the ground, farmers will be under pressure to work long hours. This will increase certain risks, according to farm safety expert Bruce Alexander, director of Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) at the University of Minnesota.
In particular, Alexander sees fatigue and roadway safety as critical issues.
“With this late planting—and who knows how soon people can get out into the field—there is going to be an incentive to work longer hours than perhaps people should,” Alexander said.
Alexander said farmers need to be aware of the potential for fatigue and take precaution by eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.
“Trying to avoid going a couple days later in the planting is not worth a lifetime of disability or regrets,” Alexander said.
One way to head off trouble, according to Alexander, is to use checklists. Some people can run through the list as a mental note, other people need a physical piece of paper (UMASH center provides blanks for people who want to make up their own checklists). Alexander said it can even help to run through a checklist aloud with another person, similar to airline pilots and co-pilots running down their safety checklists before takeoff. Alexander advises that working through the safety checklists can be important, not just for the farmers, but for family members and employees at the farm.
“Checklists are the way to make sure that you do the things that everyone knows they are supposed to do, but sometimes they don’t do them,” said Alexander.
Alexander advises that roadway safety will also be a top concern this year because of the longer hours, which will mean that more farmers are apt to be bringing their machinery over the road after sundown. When that happens, making sure proper markings are in place will be essential for safety. Not only are people driving faster than ever over rural highways, but the farm equipment has continued to increase in size, Alexander observed.