Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on September 8, 1998. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Farm Safety Week Raises Awareness
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Last year Mississippi set a new all-time high record, but it is nothing to be proud of. The record was for deaths involving tractors.
Herb Willcutt, farm safety specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said Mississippi recorded 18 tractor deaths in 1997 and two other deaths involving heavy equipment. To raise awareness of the dangers found on the farm, Sept. 20 to 26 has been named National Farm Safety and Health Week.
"While tractor deaths hit an all-time high in 1997, this year is shaping up to be equally bad," he said.
Through May, eight tractors deaths had been recorded. As harvest season approaches, Willcutt said that number will rise. The specialist said many farm accidents occur because people get in a hurry and forget safety when doing a job.
"The greatest number of tractor accidents occur just before noon and around 3 p.m. This indicates farmers are trying to get a job done before lunch or to get finished in time to do other chores before dark," Willcutt said. "Fatigue may also be a problem at those times of day."
The specialist suggested tractor operators take frequent beaks to refresh themselves and inspect their equipment.
Many tractor accidents happen near ponds and ditches or on hillsides, Willcutt said. He advised tractor operators to keep tractors away from water where surrounding ground can be eroded or soft and dangerous.
When using tractors on hills, Willcutt suggested following this rule: If you are uncomfort-able using a tractor on any given hill, then you are probably unsafe working there. Examine the terrain of a hill closely before using a tractor or equipment on it. Look for stumps, holes, ruts or bumps that may be hidden by tall grass. Make sure tractors have a roll-over protective structure and a seat belt.
Willcutt also cautioned against letting anyone unfamiliar with farm equipment, especially children, near it. Whenever someone approaches machinery in operation, the operator should shut down the equipment immediately and signal that it is safe to approach.
"Never let children ride on a tractor with you," the specialist said. "The recent deaths of two young children who fell from tractors prove the dangers of being an extra rider. Children should only be allowed near equipment when they are physically and mentally able to properly operate it. Even then, make sure youngsters know how to safely perform the jobs they are assigned."
When parking or storing equipment, make sure all parts are lowered to the lowest possible point with all doors locked and keys removed.
Willcutt said regular maintenance can help farmers stay safe during operation and maintenance work. Wear protective gear when working on machinery, such as leather gloves, safety glasses or face shields, ear plugs and steel-toed boots.
National Farm Safety and Health Week should also emphasize dangers associated with working with livestock and chain saws.
"When working with livestock, be careful not to let yourself get trapped between an animal and a fence or wall," Willcutt said. "Also use caution when carrying feed to a group of loose animals or working around animals in heat."
As fall and winter approach, chain saw use will increase, and Willcutt said operators should use extreme care.
"Most chain saw accidents are not fatal, but they can cause severe injuries. Operate saws strictly according to the user's manual," he said.
Willcutt advised anyone operating farm or other heavy machinery to abide by the user's manual and use common sense and safety practices at all times.
"So many accidents and deaths occur because of misuse or carelessness," he said. "Taking a few minutes to think through a job and plan for safety could eliminate these problems and would surely decrease statistics."