Focus on Harvest Safety This Fall

Clint Thompson Alabama

Harvesting of soybeans in this file photo.

by Victoria Dee

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Farmers in the Southeast are in the thick of harvest season, making safety more important than ever. Round-the-clock work and pressing time commitments are characteristics of harvest. The stress of these can wear down a person’s mental alertness of safety measures. One must think of safety at all times during harvest season.

Danger Points

“The first step is identifying where the danger points are,” said William Birdsong, an Alabama Extension agronomic crops regional agent. “Consider these points as any moving parts, though some are more dangerous than others.”

Birdsong considers power take off (PTO) shafts to be one of the most dangerous of these points. PTO systems operate many different pieces of harvest equipment, emphasizing the importance of safety awareness when around these. The best way to keep safe when using equipment with a PTO shaft is to keep protective guards in place over them.

Machinery Safety

Machinery is one of the more daunting aspects of harvest safety and by far one of the most important. By knowing how to stay safe around machinery, the likelihood of accidents during harvest goes down greatly.

Birdsong said turning off machinery while working on it is crucial.

“This prevents the equipment from accidentally getting engaged by someone else or by the machine itself engaging for faulty mechanical reasons,” he said.

When working on an implement raised by the lift arms of a tractor, it is important to note that it is being raised by means of hydraulics. Birdsong emphasizes to always be mindful of the possibility that hydraulic pumps and cylinders could fail. Therefore, when getting underneath an implement, avoid getting in a tight spot, where it is possible to get trapped underneath the implement.

Another machinery safety tip to remember is not to start the tractor from the ground but from the seat of the tractor itself. This can prevent accidents from occurring in which farmers find themselves in front of a running tractor.

Grain Bin Safety

One of the most important aspects of grain bin safety is the rule that no one should be allowed in a grain bin or on top of grain without a safety harness and someone spotting with a rope.

“Grain can appear stable and people can think they can walk on it, but too many people have died from failure to adhere such safety rules,” Birdsong said.

When working in grain bins, avoid getting near augers that are in operation moving grain. Protective guards should be in place on grain augers to prevent injury. Turn off all augers before trying to clear on or around them.

“One must think safety at all times,” Birdsong said.

More Information

Pressure from deadlines and progress goals are often characterizing this time of year. Because of this, the worst thing that a farmer can do is get in a hurry. For more information on harvest safety, visit or contact your county Extension office.