SIDNEY — Temperatures are falling, leaves are ready to change color … fall has arrived.
And with the fall season, county farmers will be on the roads going from their farms to the fields they are getting ready to harvest.
“Agriculture is the most hazardous industry for fatal and nonfatal injuries,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. Lenhart is also a farmer in the Jackson Center area.
“Pesticide exposure, hearing loss, stress and suicides are all related to being a farmer,” he said. “There are 2 million farms in the United States, which accounts for 1.3% of the labor force.”
Every year, said Lenhart, 400 farmers die.
“the No. 1 cause of death among farmers is a tractor turning over on them,” said Lenhart. “There are 12,000 youth injured every year while working on a farm.”
Lenhart admits he’s had some close calls while working on his farm.
“Every farmer has close calls,: said Lenhart. “I had a steel plate fall and crush my foot. I’ve had gloves torn off my hands when they got wrapped up in moving gears.”
But the incident he remembers most is the time he almost killed his dad.
“He got pinned between two wagons,” said Lenhart. “I know there types of stories are shared by all farm families.
“I didn’t pay attention to the safety rules. I was in a hurry and I was negligent.”
Lenhart said the private sector — such as a factory or manufacturing business — have a lockout tag mode when a piece of equipment breaks. If the machine goes down, the tag is placed on it until it’s been repaired.
“That never happens on the farm,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart said the average age of a farmer is 58 or older.
“Most are 75 years or older like I am,” said Lenhart. “Farmers traditionally never retire.”
Safety equipment has changed over the years. When Lenhart was a young farmer, he used a bandana to cover his nose and mouth if he was working in a dusty barn or silo. Today, he uses an N95 mask.
Lenhart also has some safety tips for farmers as they begin the harvest season.
• Make sure your equipment is maintained and do a safety check on it before going to the field.
• Take rest breaks while you’re in the field.
• Get extra workers for harvest season. Most farm alone or have family members helping them. Spouses, siblings and children all work to harvest in the crops.
• Make sure you observe youth safety rules and the children know the rules of harvest.
• Watch your access to the tractor during mowing or harvesting. If something happens to the tractor, shut it down before trying to work on it.
• Practice grain bin safety.
“Everyone should have an emergency plan,” said Lenhart. “If you re going to a field, let someone know what time you expect to be back at the house. If you’re not back by that time, someone should come looking for you. Go over the emergency plans with your family and anyone you are working with.
“Avoid using cellphones when you are driving on the roads,” he said.
All tractors and wagons should have a slow moving vehicle sign on it. If it’s faded, it should be replaced.
Lenhart said a driver should slow their vehicle as soon as they see a tractor in front of them.
“If you’re going 55 mph, that;s 80 feet per second. You’ll be on top of a tractor before you know it as they are probably going 20 mph.
“Farmers want to get off the road as soon as they can and into their fields,” said Lenhart.”They should stay off the highways and try not to travel when shops (factories) are letting out for the day. You should have another vehicle following you with their flashing lights turned on.”
Lenhart encourages all residents to share the road during harvest season.
“We want to have a safe harvest,”” said Lenhart. “City folk, if you’re sharing the highway with farm folks, be patient. Farmers, be patient with the city folks.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.