How to protect your workers and your business

Author: David H. Ruppel, CIC, CRM | Western Region Leader, Agribusiness

EquipmentGuardsFarming is one of the top 10 most dangerous occupations in America, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Farm-related injuries are often a result of long hours and close, consistent contact with heavy machinery and equipment.

These facts are no surprise to those in the farming profession and why it’s so important for all vehicles and equipment to be properly guarded. The safety of you and your workers depends on it. An unsafe work environment can lead to fines, lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims and rising insurance premiums.

That’s why virtually all of today’s farming vehicle and equipment manufacturers provide lockouts, tagouts and other types of guard devices to protect workers from injury. Some industry accepted best practices for machine guarding, include these rules and routines to help improve the operational safety of your farm.

  • Never remove guard equipment. Factory installed guards are standard on nearly all of today’s farm vehicles and equipment. They should never be removed!
  • Improvise only if factory-installed guards are unavailable. If you bought used equipment or haven’t upgraded for quite some time, you might not have modern guards. Only then should you consider improvising a solution, as that is better than leaving your machinery unguarded.
  • Train your farm workers in proper practices. Untrained workers can make serious mistakes if they don’t understand proper operation or maintenance practices. Make sure everyone who works for you is trained and regularly tested on the proper method to use and repair all potentially dangerous equipment.
  • Provide a safety checklist. Chronicle all of your vehicles and equipment and the actions that should be taken and avoided to maintain a safe and injury-free work environment. Then post your document in conspicuous places and in all languages spoken at your site.
  • Introduce an accountability program for supervisors. Your insurance adviser can help you launch a program for incentivizing supervisors to keep workers protected, with disincentives for ignoring safety issues.

For additional information on property machine guarding techniques, please reference the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards for agriculture at www.osha.gov.