You have the best conversations by chance I think. Recently I was traveling and connected with an executive at a major farm equipment maker and we got into an interesting conversation about product liability suits. His company, like many, deals with them on a regular basis and when you delve into the story you find that operator error - or ignoring warning labels - is a common problem.
While it's a tragedy when someone loses their life or a limb, today's farm equipment is as safe as it has ever been with high-tech shields, enhanced sensors and more to protect operators. But this is not a one-way street. As we think about farm safety this month, it's good to remember the value of a little fear when operating machinery. Long-time users of a machine tend to take a few things for granted. Combine that with a little fall fatigue and bad things happen.
And there are the "inconveniences" of using some safety systems. For example, if you have an open-station tractor with a rollover protective structure and you don't use the seatbelt - well you're defeating a potent safety system. Yes the seatbelt is a pain in the neck when getting on and off the tractor, but it's a fact of physics you will not be able to jump clear of the tractor if you happen to get in a rollover situation (which can happen fast).
I don't want to sound preachy (though it's not hard to). I've been to farm family gatherings and seen the carnage of this industry. Lost limbs, missing fingers are all too common among the older generation. Today's equipment is built to prevent it, provided you do your part. We all know when we hear a farm tragedy story, we think in the back of our minds just how it could have been prevented.
For your safety, thinking about that before taking on a chore is the best move. This equipment is bigger, faster and more efficient than ever. It also has points of safety you have to be aware of, so get familiar with those warning decals. Perhaps you can pull out the owner's manual once in awhile for a refresher.
Farming has the distinction of being one of the top most dangerous jobs in the country (those fisherman have nothing on us). No reason it should be if we think through procedures, set up safety systems and become fully aware of how best to operate equipment.
Sermon over. Have a safe harvest. I know many of you have already started, and we'd like to keep you around as readers.