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A spring farm safety reminder

If they've heard it once, they're heard it a thousand times. My family gets the same lecture frequently. Be safe. Drive carefully. Slow down. Check twice. Pay extra attention. Reduce risk. Everybody comes home. They roll their eyes, give me the o...

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This sticker, handed out by a local ag group, reminds the vehicle operator to always be safe on the farm. (Shauna Farver/Special to Agweek)

If they've heard it once, they're heard it a thousand times. My family gets the same lecture frequently. Be safe. Drive carefully. Slow down. Check twice. Pay extra attention. Reduce risk. Everybody comes home. They roll their eyes, give me the obligatory "we will" response, and roll out the door.

If I sound like a broken record, I'm OK with that. Farm safety is a priority - it has to be - because the stakes are too high if it's ignored. And they hear me, whether they like to acknowledge it or not, because they, too, understand the consequences of inattention, carelessness and apathy.

Our family learned the hard way how quickly accidents happen - how seemingly mundane tasks can turn into the stuff nightmares are made of. A particularly rainy harvest season had produced a bin full of wet wheat, an urgency to move faster to get tasks accomplished quicker, and fatigue. The perfect storm. An accident waiting to happen. A rain delay during harvest and a quick check of the condition of grain in the bin by my husband turned into a chemical emergency that could have taken our farmer from us, and just months before, did take the life of a farmer in a neighboring county..

That day in September, I called from my job at the time to confirm our plan to meet for lunch since we couldn't be in the field. I found an almost incoherent voice on the other end of the line. My first thought, was that it was a little early in the day to be drinking, even for a rainy day. My first question was, "what chemical have you been around today?" He mumbled his response, and I told him to hang on, that I was on my way. As I made the 10 minute drive from town, I called an ag pilot friend to find out what we were dealing with. His advice: move quickly. I called the emergency room to let them know we were coming, and the co-op to ask them to take a chemical data sheet to the ER room. The next few hours were a fast paced blur. But thanks to excellent care from our rural hospital ER staff, and a whole lot of grace, our story had a happy ending.

That day left its mark on my farmer in the form of a permanent chemical sensitivity and more difficulty processing math equations or complex calculations than before. It left its mark for our family in the form of a greater appreciation for him and a greater awareness of just how real the risks are.

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Year after year, agriculture ranks as one of the most hazardous industries. From tractor accidents to all-terrain vehicle accidents, mishaps with augers and other moving parts on equipment, accidents involving animals, grain bins incidents including suffocation and falls, electrocution, weather-related incidents such as drowning or lightning strikes, and chemical or fertilizer exposures and more - the list of potential hazards is long.

As our family and many others across the nation enter their busiest seasons of the year, I'll step up my words of encouragement - at the door on the way out in the morning, on the phone, on the two-way radio, and in other ways, too. Years ago, a friend shared some stickers with me that their local ag group had been passing out. A simple, giant red heart with the words "Please Be Careful. We Love You, Your Family," was meant to be an ever-present reminder throughout the day. Remnants of them still remain in a few trucks or tractors and on shop walls around our place.

I'm not the only one keeping the issue of farm safety front and center, either. I found an email from our commodities trading representative, reminding ag producers to stay safe. It's so good to know there are others out there sharing the same message and giving the same warning.

Be safe. Drive carefully. Slow down. Check twice. Pay extra attention. Reduce risk. Everybody comes home.

Shauna Farver
Shauna Farver

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