Farm Safety

I grew up on a family farm, well actually in a small town, but we had a family farm. I know that seeding and harvest are very busy times! I know that we often look to cut corners to make our list of tasks go quicker. I was recently having lunch with a farmer and his wife and I asked him if he could identify somewhere he was cutting corners? Somewhere that he was doing something he knew was dangerous just to save effort or time. His response wasn’t surprising, but the details were shocking!!

“Yes, there are a number of things that I know are dangerous, but I have a lot of things to get done and the time is very valuable.”
“Can you give an example of a time-saving action you consider to be dangerous?” I asked.

“Like when I’m driving my tractor and I come up to a gate. I set the throttle on my tractor to a high idle and leave it in gear as I’m coming up to the gate. I get out of the tractor, while it’s still moving, hop down and open the gate. The tractor idles through the gate and once it gets far enough on the other side I close the gate and then catch up to the tractor. Hop back on and I’m on my way.”

“Are you kidding me?”
“Nope, saves me a ton of time getting in and out of the tractor.”
“But … you know how dangerous that is?”
“Yeah, well, I just have to make sure I don’t slip.”
“You could be risking your life just to save a couple steps?”
His wife piped in and stated “You’re going to stop doing that now that you’ve realized how ridiculous that sounds, right?”
“No, well probably not, I know it’s dangerous, but I’ve got it down to a science.”

I asked the question about risk, he answered it openly, saw his action as a huge risk, but refused to change. One thing I never thought to ask him was “Has your son seen you open the gate that way?” Like it or not our actions are often recorded by our children. What if his son did the same action, but lost his footing on the way down and the tractor ran over him? Would that change his action? How serious does the consequence have to be before we recognize it as an unwarranted risk, before we stop cutting corners?

This is only one man’s story and I’m not saying every farmer is willing to take these types of brash risks, but current safety data indicates that tractors are the leading cause of death in agriculture and that children are being run over at an alarming rate. Take time today to reflect on an activity or two that you carry out that can be done in a safer manner. Is what you’re gaining really worth the risk? Recognize the potential consequence and make the change. Your family and friends will be glad you did.

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