As harvest operations kick into gear, there has been no shortage of farmer postings on social media sites. There are now recent images and video of every conceivable harvesting scene you could imagine. But in looking at some of them, one thing stood out to me: there are an awful lot of posts proudly showing how all family members are present in the field and, at times, in the machine cabs.
It’s great that we work in an industry where everyone in the family can get involved, but some of those posted images seemed to take that notion a bit too far. For example, packing three young children into the cab of a working machine with the operator taking his attention off the job long enough to film a group selfie video might not amount to a textbook definition of diligent machine operation.
Another posting I noticed involved changing a baby’s diaper in the combine cab. I know when you gotta go, you gotta go, and parents of infants need to deal with that. But I’m thinking the cab of the pickup off to the edge of the field and well away from the action might be a better place for the clean up operation.
As a kid I can remember treating the wide square fenders of a 30 Series Case tractor a little like a park bench. I spent countless hours riding on that fender holding onto the arm of the seat in that open-station tractor as my grandfather worked fields. And I loved it. It’s likely one of the things that activated my “machinery gene” and led to me becoming a machinery editor. The reality, though, is that wasn’t a very safe thing to do. But it was the 70s and I survived.
The trouble is, a lot of kids don’t survive their days around machinery on the farm. In fact, statistically a farm is one of the country’s most dangerous places for kids. According to the most recent farm accidents report, 104 people are killed in farm accidents in Canada every year, 70 percent of those incidents involve machinery. 14 of those who die every year, on average, are children.
Even with auto guidance doing the bulk of the work, operating one of today’s large-scale farm machines calls for an operator’s full attention, especially when there are multiple people and machines in the same field, as is often the case during harvest. Taking selfie videos with the kids ought to be left for those times at the end of the day when winding down in the shade of a farmyard tree with a cold drink.
It’s fair to say that doing those kinds of things around heavy machinery in any other industry would likely get you fired from your job.
The state of today’s on-farm accident statistics hasn’t been lost on the University of Manitoba, which recently recognized the need to cut help down those numbers by providing machinery operator training to students in their ag program. I had a chance to sit in on a day of their first year of safety training last fall. And seeing all those social media posts this year made me think of a comment I heard Thea Green, instructor and coordinator of the Farm Safety Program at the university’s School of Agriculture, tell her students.
To paraphrase her, the buddy seat in a machine cab is for training, not baby sitting. Now, I guess she might need to add it’s not for changing diapers either.
Be careful out there. Get the crop in safely this year.