Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Farm Machinery Rules of the Road

Farm safety is a topic very near and dear to my heart. Being a farm girl I've seen firsthand the consequences suffered by family, friends and neighbors who were too caught up in their task to think about safety. While every situation may not be preventable, a little knowledge and good ol' common sense can go a long way in keeping farmers healthy and safe.

Farmers and ranchers face an array of on-the-job hazards including being crushed or entangled by heavy machinery such as combines and balers, kicked or trampled by livestock, trapped inside silos or grain elevators, and exposed to toxic levels of pesticides and other chemicals. All this while working extremely long hours during planting and harvest seasons. All of these hazards make farming and ranching the 4th most dangerous occupation in the country (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says so).

Because I feel so strongly about ag safety awareness, my blog will occasionally feature information and tidbits like this. I'm not an expert and I'm certainly not preaching from a soapbox. It's just some things to think about.
Roadway safety is especially important for farmers who share the road with a general public increasingly unaware of farm machinery maneuverability/speed limitations. It’s increasingly necessary to be seen and be recognized by motorists. Because tractors, and the implements being pulled behind them, usually travel less than 25 MPH, making sure that they are clearly marked will help motorists see them in time to slow down.

  • Make sure that lights are in working order and that all reflectors, including the Slow Moving Vehicle emblem, are in place before traveling. Sometimes it may be necessary to wipe the dust off of these safety devices following field work.
  • If traveling at night, equipment must have two red taillights mounted to the right and left extremities, two good headlights and at least one flashing amber light. An amber flashing light mounted on the far right and left of tractors/ implements, visible to the front and rear, can also increase visibility.
  • Making a left-hand turn across the opposite lane of traffic can be a dangerous task when pulling an implement. Motorists following behind may not understand that a left turn requires a move to the right in preparation for the turn. Use turn signals accordingly and check mirrors that allow you to see behind the tractor or implement before executing the turn. Pulling onto the shoulder and waiting until the roadway is clear of traffic can aid in making this turn as well. A variety of "Ag Cams" are available which can be mounted on the back of large equipment. A video display in the cab then makes it easy for the operator to see in blind spots.
  • As farm equipment grows in size, so does the difficulty of transporting it between fields. If a piece of equipment being pulled extends into the opposite lane of traffic and the driver can’t reasonably move onto the shoulder, escort vehicles should be used. These vehicles, should be at least 500 feet in front and behind the tractor and implement and should operate flashing lights to warn oncoming vehicles.
  • Before entering the roadway, stop and look both directions. Make sure you have enough time to cross the road or enter the road if traffic is coming or is close. It takes a tractor about 10 seconds to cross a road. A car going 55 mph will travel about 800 feet in that time span.

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