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Safety Concerns Increase During Fall Harvest Time
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The fall harvest season and the preparation for winter mean an increase in farming activities and the risks that come with them.
"Harvest season usually results in an increase in farm accidents nationwide. Many accidents occur when farmers are in a hurry. A large percentage of farm accidents are fatal," said Herb Willcutt, agricultural engineer with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
"The fourth leading cause of non-highway accidental deaths in Mississippi is farm-related,"Willcutt said.
The most common farm accidents involve a tractor and machinery, and each year in Mississippi 18 to 22 of these accidents are fatal.
"Most of the time spent on a tractor is safe, but it only takes a second for a serious accident to occur. Never override the interlocks on the machinery," Willcutt said.
Do not take shortcuts to start a tractor. The time and expense it takes to replace a faulty battery or investigate and repair the problem is worth it. Prevent accidents by inspecting all farm and rural homesteads to identify safety hazards, and then promptly correct them.
A lack of machinery maintenance links nearly 50 percent of farm fatalities. Machines not properly maintained and older equipment that does not have safety equipment, such as seat belts and roll over protective structures, are involved in most of these accidents.
Always keep guards covering chains, sprockets, gears or shafts in good working condition. If a fuel or hydraulic line breaks, it is worth the time to fix it to prevent fires.
"The one time a farmer waits until after the job is done to make a repair, he will be asking for an accident," Willcutt said.
Ponds, ditches and hillsides are often more dangerous because of slopes and unpredictable holes, in which a tractor wheel may dip. Pulling loads hitched too high on a tractor also could have deadly results.
"Six farm-related accidents occurred in the second quarter of 2000. Of those six accidents from April through June, five were linked to a farm pond where a tractor was rolled over," Willcutt said.
Avoid more than 90 percent of farm accidents by exercising caution.
"Farm machinery is unforgiving; don't gamble with your life," Willcutt said.
Because of the increased concerns during harvest season, the National Safety Council's Agricultural Division and the farming industry began designating a week in September as National Farm Safety Week. By calling attention to the significant risks on farms, organizers hope to promote safety and safety education for farmers and non-farmers.