Custom Cutters Kick Off Wheat Harvest with Safety Focus

Kansas Viewpoint

Wheat delayed this year, but crews headed to harvest get a perennial message to focus on staying safe

Published on: May 1, 2013

I was in Colby a couple of days ago as the U.S. Custom Harvesters kicked off the 2013 wheat harvest season with their annual safety seminar.

This time last year, several of the crews were already headed into Texas to cut an unseasonably early wheat crop that continued to run ahead of schedule right through a Kansas harvest that was complete before Father’s Day. This year, the crop is as late as last year was early, with yet another freeze in the forecast tonight.

But the message of Monday’s meeting is the same this year as it was last year and will be next year and the year after: Put safety first.

I thought I would share a particularly memorable moment from this year’s seminar – one that was brought up by a participant who said she gets a chill every time she remembers the first time she heard the warning, which goes like this:

That harvest machine is built to do a job. It can’t think, can’t predict what a human will do and can’t alter its mission to cover your mistake. It also can’t hear you screaming or feel your pain. It just does what it does.

A silage cutter is made to pull in big hunks of stuff and chop it into small pieces. If the big hunk it pulls in happens to be a human body, it still chops it into small pieces. A combine is meant to pull in the wheat, cut it off, spit the seed in one bin and blow the chaff in another direction. It doesn’t know an arm or a leg from a tough bundle of wheat.

It is therefore, the humans who have to think ahead of the machine and make sure that they guide it with care and precision through the process of doing what it was made to do.

I’d like to echo message of the Monday’s presenters: Stay safe out there. We want you home better for the experience, all in one piece and healthier than when you left.