The fall harvest season is upon us – and that means more trucks, tractors and other equipment will be traversing typically idyllic rural roadways.

“People driving the roadways need to keep an eye out for agriculture equipment, which is larger, heavier and slower moving than it sometimes appears,” says Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. “It only takes a second or two at highway speeds to close the distance between slow moving trucks and equipment, and a collision between a large piece of equipment and a car can be devastating.”

With a good crop expected and a lot of new storage bins put up in the last year or two, the Nebraska Corn Board also encourages farmers to think about grain bin safety and communicate safety rules and procedures to anyone who may be helping load and unload grain.

“There is a real chance of entrapment in a grain bin; it only takes grain up to your knees to be trapped, and the situation can deteriorate rapidly,” Hutchens says.

Sept. 19-25 is recognized as National Farm Safety & Health Week. This year’s theme is “ATVs: Work Smart. Ride Safe.”

While ATVs are an incredibly useful tool around the farm, Hutchens says, they are also one of the most dangerous. According to the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, there were 410 deaths related to ATV use and more than 135,000 injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2008.

“ATVs should be considered another piece of equipment on the farm, another tool to help get the job done,” Hutchens says. “There should be safety rules for an ATV just like you’d have for a tractor or combine.”

Nebraska Corn Board also encourages farmers to pay special attention to the safety features of their equipment. Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous occupations in North America. In a typical year, 551 workers die while doing agricultural work in the U.S., but exercising caution, getting rest and being safety-minded can go a long ways toward increasing safety.

Some examples of fall farm activities that raise the risk factor and deserve special attention:

  • Power take offs need to be well protected to avoid any contact with clothing or people during operation.
  • Make sure safety shields are in place on all equipment everyday – they are there for a reason and are important. The same is true of equipment safety instructions.
  • Always be aware of power lines that can come in contact with moving equipment and augers around grain bins.
  • Grain bins deserve special attention and caution when grain is being loaded and removed. Safety measures should be put in place to avoid any risk of entrapment and suffocation.
  • Take periodic breaks to help avoid fatigue. Take a rest break for a few minutes, go for a short walk or give family members a call.
  • Stay focused on the equipment and void distractions from all the electronic equipment and screens in the cab – or mobile phone.
  • Use extra caution when backing equipment. It is easy to overlook something or, more importantly someone – especially a child.
  • Protective eye and ear wear is important in many situations.
  • Watch railroad crossings. There is heavy traffic on railroads and crossings can be very dangerous.
  • Rural intersections will have heavier-than-normal travel and dusty conditions may limit visibility, as can sun glare. Standing crops may also block a clear view of oncoming traffic.
  • Heavily loaded trucks and grain trailers can’t stop as quickly as passenger cars, and farm vehicles move slower on the road, which means passenger cars and trucks can close in very quickly.

“The excitement and joy of harvest can be lost in the blink of an eye when a farmer, family member or friend is injured,” Hutchens says. “Be careful out there so you or someone you know doesn’t become a statistic.”