By Fae Holin

It’s not exaggerating to say my brothers and I were raised in a barn — and out in the field. Hay bales were our playpens as our parents milked cows or fed hogs and we played and fought together at end rows while they planted or baled, trying to keep us safe in not-so-safe environments. As we grew, our folks showed us how to milk cows, feed hogs and bale hay as safely as they knew how.

Even so, we just didn’t have the knowledge base they had, and, consequently, have the scars and stories to prove that.

Britt, for example, in a hurry to finish chores one day, pitched hay from the loft trapdoor to the floor below just a little too energetically. He accidentally followed it down and broke an arm.

The first time Bruce drove tractor, he steered it into the open end of a machine shed — and through the closed door on the other side. After the door, which was on rails, just missed him and dropped to the ground — he remembered how to shut the tractor off.

Bruce still shakes his head about the time a temperamental cow stomped on me when I got in her way. I, thankfully, don’t remember much about it.

Ah, these and other close calls have become a part of our family folklore — stories we enjoy telling because we weren’t permanently harmed.

But others haven’t been as fortunate. I’ve been reminded of that year after year by farmers and ag workers, seriously hurt in farm accidents, who have allowed me to write of their pain. Such as the North Dakota 18-year-old who, after his arms were severed in a farm accident, walked to his house and dialed for help with a pencil held in his mouth. He then had the presence of mind to crawl into his tub to keep the blood from ruining his mother’s carpet.

Or the farmer diagnosed with farmer’s lung. And, recently, a dairy nutritionist whose back was broken by the terrifying force of silage collapsing on him, as well as an Extension educator with breathing problems after being exposed to silo gas.

These survivors relive their accidents over and over for those of us in the media, at association meetings and elsewhere. They do that in the hope that others won’t have to experience farm accidents just as sad or even more tragic.

So, this season, if not for yourself, and if not for your family, stay safe for all those who sincerely wish you won’t ever have to be where they have been.

Check Out This Safety Checklist

This safety checklist, from USDA’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, offers ways to reduce illnesses and injuries on the farm.

  • Set up plans of action for emergencies, including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires and chemical exposures.
  • Buy good equipment, keep it in good repair and inspect it routinely for problems that may cause accidents.
  • Always use seat belts while operating tractors.
  • Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals and on product labels.
  • Discuss safety hazards and emergency procedures with workers.
  • Install approved rollover protective structures, protective enclosures or protective frames on tractors.
  • Replace guards on farm equipment after maintenance.
  • Review and follow instructions in material safety data sheets and on labels that come with chemical products. Then relay that information to workers.
  • Take precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos or hoppers.
  • Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can form in unventilated grain silos and manure pits and can suffocate or poison workers or explode.
  • Take advantage of safety equipment, such as bypass starter covers, power takeoff master shields and slow-moving-vehicle emblems.