Lest We Forget: Farms Are Dangerous

Just ask my family.

Modern farming involves a lot of big moving parts that can actually be really dangerous if we don’t exercise caution and employ common sense. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t help but remind farmers and non-farmers alike that we need to be careful, even while doing routine tasks. Of course, a hands on job like farming has always included dangers and risks and it still does today. But even our more experienced hands on the farm can get hurt.

This year seemed to be particularly hazardous for my farm family.

It started in the spring while my brother and dad were working on equipment in preparation for planting. My brother was climbing down one of his tractors when his foot slipped off the ladder rung. He started to fall and attempted to catch himself by grabbing onto the weights on the front of the tractor. Unfortunately, his finger got caught between the weights and broke.

While converting an old pickup into a tank carrier, my dad was hurt when he attempted to use the grinder on a part. The grinder slipped and caught the back of his hand. True to character, he “bandaged” it up with duct tape and continued working (not recommended!). Although he eventually ended up in the Emergency Room, it was lucky he only needed a few stitches. Later in the season, dad managed to all but slice off the top of his finger while handling sheet metal. Thankfully, after another trip to the Emergency Room, his finger is completely healed and fine now.

Unfortunately, my mom seemed to suffer the worst injury.

During harvest the past couple years, my mom has been getting more and more involved, especially in the fields. Aside from supplying everyone with lunch, she also drives the tractor and grain wagon. My brother unloads “on the go” into the wagon, and then dumps the wagon into the semi-truck. She also follows our large equipment on the road, helps the guys switch fields, and serves as a traffic block when equipment has to be on the road.

Unfortunately, toward the end of harvest this year, mom took a bit of a tumble while attempting to exit her tractor at night in the dark. As she was climbing down the steps of the tractor with one hand, the other was holding some items destined for the trash can, she missed the last two steps on the tractor’s ladder and fell. We aren’t exactly sure how she landed, but she managed to smack the back of her head on the tractor tire and injure her knee. (If you have ever felt a tractor tire, you know they don’t “give” like car tires!)

A trip to the Emergency Room that night revealed no broken bones in her knee, but she’s still unable to put any weight on it. If it isn’t better by soon, she’ll likely have to see an orthopedic specialist and may require surgery on her knee. Thankfully, she didn’t lose consciousness upon hitting her head and there was no sign of a concussion. However, she’ll have you know the back of her head is still tender.

Mom has also been informed that the proper way to take trash out of the cab is to throw it on the ground, climb down the ladder using both hands, and pick it up off the ground. But even a seemingly easy and routine task involves safety issues. Mom won’t make the same mistake again, but she got pretty banged up learning that hard lesson.

Farm safety measures should be taken seriously, even by experienced farmers. Usually these accidents can be avoided by simply using common sense. Don’t work if you’re overly tired. Focus on one task at a time. Use appropriate safety gear (yes, even if you think it looks goofy). Use both hands! Of course, don’t forget to warn those not as familiar with the farm to be careful as well.

Not all accidents can or will be avoided, but reducing the frequency and severity of them is worth the extra few minutes it may take to exercise caution.

About Amanda Zaluckyj

Amanda is from Southwest Michigan where her family farms 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans. For 26 years, Amanda and her family ran and supplied a roadside market selling their own fresh fruits and vegetables. After graduating college, Amanda attended law school at Michigan State University College of Law and is now a practicing lawyer. She also "ag-vocates" at her blog TheFarmersDaughterUSA.com about issues facing modern agriculture.

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