SIDNEY — Blue skies and sunshine have the local farmers ready to hit the roads with their tractors and begin their spring planting.
“Next week, the weather is supposed to break,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “You’re going to see all kinds of farmers on the road with their tractors.
Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state and especially in Shelby County, he said.
“Being a farmer is two times more dangerous than being in law enforcement,” said Lenhart. “And its five times more dangerous than being a firefighter.”
He said 50 percent of farm fatalities involve a tractor rollover.
“There are 15,000 injuries a year nationwide involving farmers,” said Lenhart. “We ha 400 deaths last year in the U.S. There were 212 in Ohio, with two local deaths last year — one in Shelby County and one in Champaign County.”
Lenhart said when he was growing up he had al types of chores on the family farm. It’s up to the parents to decide what type of chores a child should be doing on the farm.
The most farm injuries suffered involve children and senior citizens, he said,
“Today’s tractors have seat belts,” he said. “Most farmers don’t use them. But 99% of tractor fatalities could be stopped if the farmer was wearing a seat belt.”
Farmers, he said, should also avoid the temptation of having a child or another adult riding with them in the tractors cab.
Lenhart also talked about “working on the back 40.”
“The farmer might have an employee or friend helping them in the field and tell them to go work on the ‘back 40.’ The problem is that person might not know where the back 40 is.
“They go to the back 40 to work the ground, spray or fertilize. The next thing they know they’re on a neighbor’s farm. You should get a map and show the person where the back 40 or back 80 land is.”
Lenhart also reminded farmers to have the slow moving vehicle sign on the equipment they drive on the road. Make sure the sign is clean so it can be seen by other drivers.
“Make sure all the lights are working,” he said. “If a car is going 55 mph and the tractor is going 15 mph, it’s going to take the vehicle 1,000 feet to stop.”
Lenhart said it’s nice when farmers use an escort vehicle to make sure they are seen on the roads.
“They should stay off the roads at dawn and dusk,” he said.
Another time to avoid is when traffic is heavy, such as when a business or industry employees leave at the end of their shift.
Farmers should educate their family and employees who are helping out in the fields. they should tell the other peo0ple where are are holes in the field, electric poles are located and where there might be stumps.
Farmers should also wear PPE because they are dealing with chemicals and fertilizers. Seeds are also coated so insects won’t eat them. He recommends farmers wear eye protection, gloves and long sleeved shirts, along with long pants as opposed to shorts.
“We need to share the road with our city friends and neighbors,” said Lenhart. “I’d ask the farmers to pull over on the side of the road so the vehicles can pass them safely. “
He also recommends each farmer have a first aid kid on their tractor, along with food and drinks because they’ll be working long hours in the field.
“If you get tired, pull over and take a short nap,” said Lenhart. “Some tractors have GPS and automatic steering. Don’t et complacent about using those and stay alert when you’re in the field and on the road.
“Also, avoid the adult beverages when you’re working in the field. You want your reaction time to be as quick as possible.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.