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Maintain augers and create work zones to prevent entanglements

An auger in good condition is critical when it comes time to move grains and feed around the farm. Augers can also be some of the most hazardous machines on the farm, especially if they haven’t been properly maintained.

Although Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting statistics have identified runovers as the top cause of agriculture-related fatalities, the number of reported entanglements remain too high on that list and continue to be an area of concern.

To prevent injury, consider establishing a work zone specifically for operating augers. Posting a few signs will help to make it clear to all farm workers and any visitors to keep away from an active work zone where augers are regularly in use. Make sure the work zone is level, the ground is clear of debris, and supports are in place for anchoring the intake or discharge end before operating. Signage should emphasize the importance of keeping clothing, feet, hands and hair clear of moving auger parts. Also be sure to include immediate shutdown procedures, reminding all grain auger operators to disconnect from the power source in the event of an emergency stop.

For farmers who do not use grain augers as frequently, it can be easy to forget about repairs or general maintenance between uses. But remembering to fix obvious hazards and getting reacquainted with an auger ahead of harvest activities could prevent a close call or an injury.

Before the busy season starts, check that all safety guards are in place, secured, and that they won’t impede proper function. Have a look at all the safety decals and get replacements for anything that is no longer legible or is missing completely. Some grain auger distributors make these available, free of charge.

Inspect the winch system for wear and tear, ensuring that there is enough cable to wrap around the winch drum at least three times when the auger is down. Check that the cable anchor, fasteners, belts and any chains are all sufficiently tight.

Grease the machine as directed in the owner’s manual and top up oil levels in the gearbox. Several equipment manufacturers offer copies of grain auger owner’s manuals online, for farmers who never received a paper copy or have misplaced it since the previous season.

Be aware that any augers manufactured in Canada prior to 2012 were subject to different safety guidelines than newer models on the market. A new Canadian safety standard for portable augers used on farms addressed many intake guard and auger driveline design flaws.

When you are moving grain, it is easy to become distracted by the quality of the crop, or preoccupied with thoughts about managing the flow of harvest traffic. So, when you pull out the combine for its pre-harvest inspection, go over your augers while you’re at it. Make sure your work zone is set up properly every time you check for empty grain bins. Don’t let a momentary lapse in concentration put the safety of you, or someone you love, at risk around a running auger.

– Amy Petherick for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association

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