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Make hay while the sun shines. But do it safely

Summer is a busy time. Kids are home from school, ongoing farmyard and machinery maintenance is underway, and of course one of the season’s most labour-intensive tasks looms — haying. Beating the weather and getting hay down, dried, baled and hauled is a major undertaking and not without its particular set of hazards.

Crush injuries, runovers, rollovers, pinch points, transportation hazards, fall hazards, stress and anxiety — you name it, baling and haying come with a variety of issues that can affect the health and safety of those working hard to get the job done. However, there are a number of steps that can reduce the risk of downtime, breakdowns and most importantly, injury.

First and foremost: keep children and other untrained individuals away from balers, trailers, tractors, front-end loaders, forklifts and other equipment. Removing bystanders from potentially hazardous situations is essential in keeping them safe. Runovers and rollovers are the leading causes of agriculture-related deaths.

Haying involves a lot of tasks — cutting, baling, stacking, hauling and unloading and all the smaller tasks associated with each of these larger tasks. There are plenty of opportunities for injuries. Remember: all persons operating any equipment or machinery need to be fully and properly trained on all operations being performed. Even the smallest, simplest task can be made dangerous due to inadequate training.

Many factors go into a safe and successful haying season. Keep in mind the conditions on your land. Issues such as hills, equipment, rail crossings, roadways or approach accesses are unique to each operation.

Some universal safety and health considerations include:

  • Try not to work alone. If you absolutely must, make sure someone knows where you are and schedule regular check-ins.
  • Always wear your seatbelt and ensure your rollover protection structure is in place when operating tractors.
  • Hydration, nutrition and rest are essential to well-being, both physically and mentally. Eat healthy food, drink plenty of water and try to get adequate rest.

For cutting and baling:

  • Tractors should be matched to the size of the baler.
  • Ensure all guards are in good condition and in place.
  • Make sure all bearings and belts are in good condition to prevent fires (and carry a dry chemical fire extinguisher).
  • Before inspecting the tractor or baler, disengage the PTO.
  • Ensure the baler’s flywheel is completely stopped before working on it.
  • Never unload a round bale on a slope where it might roll downhill.

Loading and hauling:

  • Make sure that your trailer is large enough for the load.
  • Ensure your load is well secured and stable. Sudden starts, stops and excessive speed may cause the load to fall.
  • Do not drive on the shoulder of the road. Signs or guardrails could damage your equipment or cause a traffic incident. The shoulder may be soft and could cause the load to shift or fall.
  • Make sure there are no obstructions and bystanders during loading and unloading.

This is not a complete list of safety tips, but they are a good start to get you thinking about and planning for a safe and successful haying season. Stay safe and happy haying!

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