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Importance of farm safety highlighted

ABOVE: A tractor hauls a wagon of corn silage in Martin County. Vehicles like these are slow moving and can be difficult to pass on two lane county roads.

FAIRMONT- This week is National Farm Safety Week and farm safety is particularly important at the beginning of the harvest season. The harvest season is the busiest time of year for farmers and brings with it a burst of activities which can pose a safety hazard to farmers and the people who surround them.

“Farm safety week is not just about this week, it’s an introduction of what’s to come this whole harvest season,” said Martin County Farm Bureau President Rochelle Krusemark.

Drivers will be sharing the roads with more large, slow moving vehicles and should take necessary precautions to avoid collisions.

“All the time we should drive with safety in mind, but especially now during harvest when we know there’s going to be more equipment and more trucks on the road,” said Krusemark.

Like other large vehicles, pieces of agricultural equipment have larger blind spots and less maneuverability. Many vehicles may be equipped with rear view cameras, but drivers shouldn’t always count on being seen by equipment operators.

“Most of the newer harvesters have them, but when we’re driving down the road we’re paying attention to the road and probably shouldn’t be looking at a monitor. They’re more so for in the fields and when backing up,” said Krusemark.

Additionally, unlike semi-trucks, these vehicles are incapable of higher speeds and may also swerve in and out of fields. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) inattentive driving and excessive speed are the biggest contributing factors in accidents involving agricultural equipment. MnDOT urges drivers to slow down and use caution when passing farm equipment and while also watching for debris. Equipment operators should use lights and flashers to ensure their vehicles are visible and consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, particularly when at night.

When passing agricultural equipment, it’s crucial to pay attention to the vehicle’s turn signals and watch for incoming traffic. In many situations the best option may be to wait until passing the vehicle can either be done in a safe place or is necessary.

“By law you can pass anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” said Krusemark.

Hazardous work also continues on farms themselves. When visiting a relative on a farm it’s important to remember that these locations are oftentimes dangerous work sites. Children should be closely monitored when visiting farms.

“You can do things safely, but with supervision,” said Krusemark.

As for safety initiatives for farmers themselves, Krusemark highlighted the importance of not wearing loose clothing around unshielded moving parts and wearing an N95 respirator masks when around dust. Farmers should also make sure they’re well rested, hydrated and taking regular breaks when working to prevent accidents due to fatigue.

The Martin County Farm Bureau is currently hoping to host its annual safety camp next spring. The event would allow attendees to get up close with agricultural equipment and experience an operator’s perspective.

“Every time we do that the students are surprised by how far back they have to be in order to be seen by the cab,” said Krusemark.

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