June 15, 2009

Summer is a busy time for Kentucky farmers, and farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. With the recent farm-related death of a Lincoln County man, producers across the state need to be vigilant about safety on their farms.

"This recent death involved entrapment beneath a round baler tailgate. Whenever you are working around or beneath farm machines or machine components held up by hydraulics, you should always engage the locking devices supplied by the manufacturer," said Mark Purschwitz, agricultural safety and health specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Hydraulic systems can leak or rupture. Even someone helping you might hit the wrong lever, so it is important that you use the locking device every time, without exception. Check the owner's manual to be sure you know how to use it."

Farm-related deaths in Kentucky peaked at 50 in 1995 and have declined since then. Purschwitz said combine headers, skid-steer loader arms and round baler tailgates are just a few examples of machines that typically have manufacturer-provided locking devices, specifically for the purpose of safely performing maintenance or repairs. He also said such devices typically consist of mechanical supports, such as steel pins or channels, that prevent a hydraulic cylinder from retracting and lowering the machine, but since every machine is different, it is important to consult the owner's manual.

Older machines may not have safety locks, so the farmer must have wood blocks or jack stands to hold up the machine, or angle iron or steel channel strapped to the hydraulic cylinder rod to prevent retraction, while someone is beneath it," he added. "No matter if a machine is new or old, you never want to trust your life to anything supported by a hydraulic system. Machines will fail, and they do not care who you are."

Because agriculture has the highest rate of occupational fatalities of any industry, the UK College of Agriculture works closely with the KDA and the National Safety Council to provide Kentuckians with the most up-to-date information about agricultural safety. Visit the UK College of Agriculture's Web site on farm safety issues at http://www.bae.uky.edu/Ext/Farm_Safety/default.htm. The NSC offers numerous agricultural safety factsheets and articles online at its Web site, located at http://www.nsc.org/necas/resources.aspx. Visit the KDA Farm and Home Safety Program online at http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/farmsafety/index.htm.

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