Spring planting season is fast approaching, and that means more chances for farm-related injuries as farmers enter their fields.
Bill Field, an ag safety specialist with the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, says every year his office receives reports of people run over by farm machinery.
"If you look at the last 30 years of data, the primary cause of death on farms is tractor overturns, followed by being run over by an implement or tractor," he says. "Many of these cases involve older people or children who are around the machine."
Field said most injuries happen when children go into the field or when someone goes out to convey a message, visit or ride along with the farmer. Farm families can stay safe by taking precautions.
"This is a family affair," Fields says. "Everyone has to get together and recognize that when you're out doing tillage work, or whatever, that it's nice to know where everybody is."
Young children are especially prone to exploring for curiosity's sake or because they're following a family member, Field says. "There's a growing emphasis on trying to provide safe play areas for children so they don't wander out into the field.”
When it's necessary to visit the field, call ahead to alert the operator, Field says.
"If you're driving out to the field make sure your vehicle isn't parked where they can't see it. Also, rather than going into the center of the acreage, wait at the end of a row where the farmer is going to be slowing down and making some turns," he says. "Then stand somewhere off to the side so they can clearly see you."
The machinery operator also can help avoid injuries by taking a few safety precautions before starting up and driving off.
"Do a walk around before staring up the machine, especially on something that you can't see all the way around from the operator's station," Field says.
The consequences of not checking around machinery can be devastating.
"Recently I had a situation where a hired man crawled up underneath the bottom of a combine to do some cleaning. The operator never saw the person underneath there and proceeded to start the machine and drive off, causing some injury to the worker," Field said. "The machines are that big. You just can't see someone from up on the operator's seat. Ultimately you're responsible when you turn the key on."