As farmers across the nation prepare to pull into their fields to begin planting an estimated 97.3 million acres of corn, it is important to remind Michigan corn farmers to always follow vital safety precautions, and for state residents to be aware of an increase in farming vehicles on our roadways.
"As farmers plant this year's crops, we want to remind them that a successful planting season is one in which everyone remains safe," says Pat Feldpausch, Corn Marketing Program of Michigan president and a corn farmer from Fowler.
Planting is one of the highest risk periods for farm injuries or fatalities. Safe planting begins with the prevention of accidents. The National Safety Council makes the following safety recommendations:
•Inspect all planting equipment prior to use, making sure shields and guards are in place and that seatbelts work properly, if applicable.
•Never lean or step over a power takeoff (PTO) while it is operating.
•Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around PTO shafts or other moving parts and keep long hair tied back or under a cap.
•Shut down equipment, turn off engine, remove key and wait for moving parts to stop before dismounting equipment.
•Maintain Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) symbols on all equipment.
•Use extreme caution when driving machinery on roadways.
•Keep all bystanders and children away from all equipment.
•Follow all safety guidelines set by the equipment manufacturers.
Always read chemical-packaging labels. All crop-protection chemicals include information on the proper use of the chemical; its proper handling, safe storage and first aid information.
•Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets for the crop-protection chemicals that you use, which include health-hazard data, spill or leak procedures and handling information.
•Have on hand and wear the personal protective equipment required by the label. These can include chemical-protection goggles and face shields, as well as chemical-resistant gloves, coveralls, boots, hats and aprons.
•Keep crop-protection chemicals in storage areas that can be locked to keep bystanders and children out. •Be sure to label the storage area as containing chemicals.
•Launder chemical-soiled clothing separately from other laundry and triple rinse.
•Remind all farm employees about farm safety and ensure they have had all appropriate training.
As farm equipment continues to increase in size and farmers take on land farther from the farm, the threat of motor vehicle and farm equipment accidents increases substantially.
"Farmers are exposed to safety risks year-round, but those safety risks escalate during the planting season. Farmers are particularly busy during this time of year and spend hours driving equipment on busy roadways," Feldpausch says. "We want to remind the general public that farm equipment is moving at a slow pace, so they need to be aware, pay attention and slow down."
Along with the risks of moving large equipment on public roads, farmers who spend the majority of their time outside are also at a higher risk for developing various forms of skin cancer. Farmers often receive their greatest exposure during the sun's peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from May to October. Multiple studies over the past several years have indicated a higher incidence of skin cancer fatalities for farmers.
To help reduce their risk of skin cancer, farmers should wear sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts on a regular basis. When applying sunscreen, the higher the number, the greater the protection from the sun's harmful rays. During the spring planting season when most farmers spend their time in a tractor cab, it never hurts to take extra precautions against the dangers of the sun.