6 Simple Tips for A Safe Harvest Season

September 10, 2020 3:17 PM
Blog Post

Safety should be a major concern for all farmers during harvest, but as the season goes on, it can be easy to miss details or neglect safe practices that can put you or others at risk. Here are six simple safety tips to maintain throughout the season to keep yourself and your crew out of harm’s way.

1. Keep your machine’s safety features, mirrors and windows clean both in and out of the field

Grain carts are one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment during harvest, but they also have the most potential for blind spots. With few lights on the back of the cart and large areas of obstructed visibility, it’s important to keep the safety features available in good working order. Check your cart’s turn signal and brake lights prior to leaving each field to ensure safe operation down the road.

Be sure to regularly wipe any dust or debris from safety reflectors, lights and mirrors on your grain cart both in the field and on the road, as well as those on your combine, tractor and gravity wagons. If your cart or wagon doesn’t come with turn signal lights, a backup strobe like this one can be used to make your implement more visible in low light situations. Keep glass cleaner and paper towels or rags in your cab to clean your machine daily, and prevent accidents that can occur from not seeing a car or other obstacle on the road.

Replace any reflectors that are not in good condition at the start of harvest season and clean reflectors and lights regularly.

Figure 1. Replace any reflectors that are not in good condition at the start of harvest season and clean reflectors and lights regularly.

2. Inspect your PTO’s safety shields for all operation

The Power Take Off (PTO) can cause severe injury without proper safety precautions. NEVER step over the PTO shaft, either while it is running or when it is not in operation. This includes a tractor and grain cart combination as well as a tractor attached to an auger against a grain bin. It is always better to take few extra seconds and walk around the equipment.

Inspect the guards on the PTO shaft every season. With the tractor turned off and the key stored in the operator’s pocket, use one hand to spin the shield 360°. If the guard can spin without stopping or turning the power drive train, the shield is working properly. If the guard does catch or rub at any point in time, the guard should be repaired or replaced before being put back into service. Don’t forget to check the PTO shafts on the combine head as well to prevent crop from getting tangled around the shaft.

3. Look out for stray metal and other debris

After the derecho storm earlier this month, pieces of metal and other debris may have found their way into your fields. Be observant as you harvest your fields and watch out for large debris that could seriously damage your machines and slow down your harvest. If you do experience a plug in your corn head, follow this procedure to safely remove it. 

  1. Bring the combine to a stop and back up a few feet so the head of the combine is located over harvested crop.
  2. Bring the combine’s threshing element to a slow speed on idle.
  3. Open the deck plates as wide as they will go.
  4. Using the reverser switch for the head, lightly bump the switch in reverse a few times to see if the plugged material becomes dislodged. If the material does not become dislodged, stop running the head. Constant running of the head can cause damage to the slip clutch, making it weak and creating excess heat.
  5. Follow the combine lockout procedure before ever working around or under a raised combine head. Make sure all hydraulics and shafts are removed from the combine and safety cylinder block/stops are applied.
  6. Using cut resistant gloves, grab a handful of material at a time and slowly begin pulling it out of the snapping rolls. Be careful; there is likely to be something lodged in the snap rolls and it could be sharp objects such as nails or sheet metal.

4. Be aware of your crew’s location

A good practice is to honk the horn of the combine or tractor three times before starting the machine or engaging the components so other members of your crew know the machine is moving, and to give them time to move out of the way and remove themselves from moving parts.

5. Check your tow ropes and chains when extracting stuck equipment

While not every area in the state may have this problem each season, it’s important to know how to stay safe when pulling out a stuck tractor or combine. When possible, use tow ropes in good condition instead of chains. If only chains are available, inspect them to make sure both ends are in good condition and the chain itself does not have any broken, bent or weak links. Be sure that the machine you pull with and the chain are large enough to tow the weight of the stuck machine. Never stand between a stuck vehicle and the implement towing it. Chains and ropes can break and will seriously injure anyone in their path. It’s best to stand far way and communicate with the operator of the equipment using either cell phones or two-way radios.

6. Be conscious of your mental health and seek help when necessary

There is a growing concern about mental health in the agriculture and farming community, and a harvest season with unusual circumstances like this year can cause additional stress. Be mindful of your own mental health, as well as that of your employees, co-workers and family. For help dealing with stress, disaster relief and legal matters, refer to www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/ or call 1-800-447-1985.

Continue to keep up with these practices as you go through the harvest season. By using these tips and maintaining awareness of your surroundings, you can protect yourself, your investment and others on the road and in the field for a safe harvest season.