Ladders are one of the most used and, consequently, miss-used tools on the homestead. Here are a few safety tips for safe ladder use:
- Are you fit for duty? If you are exhausted, drowsy, sick, etc. you should ask yourself, “Am I in good enough shape to do this chore?” Remember, one slip and you could be out of commission for months and see your money and dreams wither and die. I had an employee fall from a 4′ tall ladder. He fractured his skull and nearly died. He didn’t think he was going to get hurt that day, either.
- Inspect your ladder – no brainer – make sure there are no cracks, everything is tight and secure, etc.
- When you inspect the ladder, ask yourself if you have enough ladder to do the job. Is it sturdy enough to handle the load of yourself, tools, and materials? Is it long / tall enough? Remember, if you are using a step ladder, the top and top step cannot be used to climb or stand upon.
- Set up your ladder on a firm, level surface. If you are using an extension ladder, secure it at the top at a minimum, and the best practice is to secure it top and bottom.
- Use a pull rope instead of carrying tools up the ladder. In this picture my son and I are repairing the barn roof. Instead of carrying the sheets of tin up the ladder, he is tieing them and I am hoisting them. He has taken his gloves off to tie the rope.
- Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
- Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
- An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface should extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
- Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines!
- Never lean a step ladder and use it like an extension ladder.
Practical tips below, but first a philosophy lesson.
As homesteaders go, we are typically an independent lot. Whatever political stripe, we tend to be resourceful and with a drive for self-sufficiency. That usually doesn’t lend itself to embracing many of the myriad of laws that are so pervasive in our culture. In short, we pretty much don’t like anyone sticking their nose in our business.
With that being said, please bear with me as we look a little bit into the government’s efforts to keep us safe on the farm.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration promulgates rules for safety to the tune of thousands of individual and corporate safety mandates. They even have a special section on farm safety – 29 CFR 1928. Whereas the construction industry is only governed by 29 CFR 1926, farming is additionally governed by 29 CFR 1910.
I want to challenge you, though. Don’t think about the oppression inherent in the system, but think why we have the rules. Here are a few reasons:
- Agriculture ranks among the most dangerous industries. Between 2003 and 2011, 5,816 agricultural workers died from work-related injuries in the US.1,2
- In 2011, 570 agricultural workers died from work-related injuries.1 The fatality rate for agricultural workers was 7 times higher than the fatality rate for all workers in private industry; agricultural workers had a fatality rate of 24.9 deaths per 100,000, while the fatality rate for all workers was 3.5.3
- The leading cause of death for farm workers between 1992 and 2009 was tractor overturns, accounting for over 90 deaths annually. The most effective way to prevent tractor overturn deaths is the use of Roll-Over Protective Structures; however in 2006 only 59% of tractors used on farms in the US were equipped with these devices.2
- Every day, about 243 agricultural workers suffer a serious lost-work-time injury. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.2
- In 2011, the injury rate for agricultural workers was over 40 percent higher than the rate for all workers. Crop production agricultural workers’ injury rates were 5.5 per 100 workers. Animal production agricultural workers’ injury rates were 6.7 per 100 workers. The rate for all workers was 3.8.
How does this apply to you, the small farm homesteader? Refer back to number 4 stated previously. How would your homesteading efforts fair if you were injured or permanently impaired? Your dream, along with your money, might just evaporate before your eyes. So we’re not about the rules and regulations nearly as much as we are about the behaviour that leads to these accidents. Again, safety isn’t about rules, it’s about being able to live our dreams.
Now, for the practical portion of today’s post – farm tractor safety:
- Wear your seatbelt.
- Always try to operate your tractor on the flattest ground possible. Not always an option, though.
- Keep side mounted implements on the uphill side of your tractor.
- Avoid turning on slopes which is, again not always possible. When you do operate on a slope, turn downhill.
- Be extra careful next to ponds and ditches.
- Put your dogs up before cutting hay or bush hogging. We don’t need anymore dogs named “Tripod”!
- Always attach hitches to the draw bar which runs inline with the centerline of the tractor, not the cross draw bar.
- Never start the tractor while standing on the ground. It is a machine and safety mechanisms can fail. One of the most tragic instance of a farm fatality happened to a family in our community. One of the sons of the family tried to start a tractor while standing on the ground. It lurched forward, crushing him to death.
- Tractor rollovers – where to begin on this danger? See this video for a practical guide to not crushing yourself with a tractor rollover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnBkGBOFtRc