Image of an aerial view of a modern American farm during harvest season.

Farm Safety Tips When Harvesting

Updated September 3, 2020 . AmFam Team

Having a proactive attitude when it comes to the next harvest can help you get ahead. Learn how to manage risks and reduce loss on your farm.

For many, the farm is a way of life, handed down through generations. Part of having a successful farm is putting safety at the top of the priority list, and harvesting is no time to let your guard down. Because it’s such a busy time on the farm — with extra staff on hand and rarely-used equipment in use — exercising a little extra caution can go a long way to preventing accidents.

Your farm means the world to you, and while bottom line is important, it’s about more than that. Managing your risks and reducing losses can have a positive impact on everything you do. So, this year, before harvesting, be sure to review your farm safety protocols to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep yourself and your workers safe. Our farm harvesting safety tips below give you a great starting point for bringing in your crops by minimizing injuries. Working smarter, not harder, is the real way to reap lasting rewards!

How to Work Safely With Silos and Grain Bins

Few places on today’s modern farm are more dangerous than grain storage systems. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) grain handling safety website (Opens in a new tab) is a great place to familiarize yourself with the latest grain handling safety protocols before the harvest begins. The following tips can help you work more safely in silos and grain elevators.

At a minimum, before entering a grain bin, have workers follow a mandatory checklist like the one below:

  • Require workers to receive a farm manager’s permit for access into the grain bin prior to entry
  • Thoroughly train workers on grain bin safety and hazardous working conditions
  • Never enter a bin when alone
  • Be certain all power supplies to the grain bin are turned off and locked out
  • Never allow workers to walk on grain in order to make it flow
  • Be sure workers are outfitted with OSHA-required (PPE) when “bridged” grain conditions exist
  • Test air for combustible and toxic gases — and verify oxygen supply is available within normal ranges
  • Ventilate silos prior to worker entry and verify temperature is safe
  • Never allow smoking in or near grain elevators
  • Regularly inspect grain storage systems
  • Install and properly locate dust collection systems to prevent spontaneous explosions
  • Verify proper slide door operation

How to Keep Kids Safe on the Farm

Attending to the safety of children on the farm should be a top priority. Whether they’re workers or visitors, youngsters should always be supervised. Part of the fun for visiting children is helping with chores and interacting with animals in the fall. Cultivatesafety.org has put together a dynamic safety checklist  (Opens in a new tab)you can use to craft a safety plan, training ideas and activities for kids of any age.

Look at these important farm child safety tips:

  • Post rules and regulations for young workers and youth visitors
  • Create a list of safe activities for visiting kids
  • Keep kids away from worksites and running machinery
  • Never allow children on tractors or equipment
  • Carefully supervise and protect kids when near livestock
  • Train all workers and children on ATV safety
  • Assign children tasks that are appropriate for their age and cognitive abilities
  • Create a fenced-off, child-safe area for visiting kids to do chores and play under supervision
  • Take time to train young farm workers how to do their farm work safely

How to Manage Safety Gear For All Farm Workers

No matter what you and your crew are doing, make sure all are wearing the appropriate safety gear. OSHA states that many farm and ranch injuries can be prevented or lessened if the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used.

While having the right safety equipment on hand is the first step, using it properly is the key during harvest time. Identify hazards on your farm or ranch and then determine if you need PPEs from the following categories. Here’s a quick list of some PPE workers will likely need on the farm:

  • Eye and face protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory protection
  • Hand protection
  • Head protection
  • Foot protection
  • Wheel blocks or chocks for implements, trucks and tractors
  • Lanyards, harnesses, tie-offs and fall prevention systems
  • Safety signage posted to warn workers of potential risks

How to Keep Farm Tractors Safe

Whether they’re harvest volunteers or full-time employees, all drivers should be familiar with the equipment they’re operating. A tractor safety refresher may be necessary, especially if there’s new equipment on the farm. Here are some basic tractor and implement safety tips for everyone on the farm:

  • Read the operators manual before using any tractor or implement
  • Provide training for all tractor operators
  • Ensure every tractor driver has the skills and abilities to operate it safely
  • Hitch only to hitch points and the draw bar
  • Install and properly maintain tractor roll-over protection structures (ROPS)
  • Always wear the seatbelt with ROPS
  • Engage parking brake and hand brake when your tractor is at a stop for more than a few moments
  • Never let anyone ride on the fenders, hitches, attachments or implements
  • Cool down the tractor before refueling
  • Each time you exit the tractor, turn off the engine and bring the keys with you

How to Safely Operate Tractors, Trailers and Implements

If tractors and other equipment will be on roadways, then adhering to these farm equipment road safety tips is best protocol for everyone involved. This harvest, keep these operator safety tips in mind:

  • Verify that slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs are positioned correctly and highly reflective
  • Mark your equipment with reflective tape
  • Stay off slopes and unsupported lane shoulders
  • To limit carbon monoxide risks, prohibit the starting of any engine in enclosed spaces
  • Verify lights are working and reflectors are wiped down
  • Avoid transporting multiple tractors or equipment at the same time
  • Never leave an unattended tractor, PTO or implement idling or running
  • Operate the tractor smoothly — avoid lurching forward quickly and suddenly stopping
  • Avoid ditches, embankments, holes and trees when possible
  • Schedule travel on roads during off hours and avoid rush hour

How to Operate ATVs Safely on the Farm

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can be very useful on farms and ranches when it’s time to bring in the crops — but they also pose some serious safety risks. Check out the OSHA ATV safety publication (Opens in a new tab) if you’d like training on how to safely use ATVs. The following tips provide a great starting place for practicing ATV safety:

  • Get certified in an ATV safety training course
  • Wear approved PPE, like a full-face helmet with eye protection or goggles
  • Use ATVs with safety features, like anti-lock brakes and traction control
  • Match the ATV to the rider’s size and age
  • Be sure all riders abide by and understand your state’s ATV riding rules and regulations
  • Train riders on basic wound dressing in the field and first aid
  • Ensure each rider has a radio or cell phone to call for help if necessary
  • Outfit riders with protective clothing, like over-the-ankle boots, gloves and long sleeve jackets
  • Maintain a safe distance when traveling with other ATVs
  • Always ride at safe speeds
  • Avoid riding ATVs at night
  • Never ride on paved surfaces or public roads
  • Be sure all ATV operators ride with their state or county ATV safety certification where mandated by law

How to Dress Appropriately on the Farm

As the crops come in, there are a lot of moving parts in use and loose clothing can easily get snagged and caught. Don’t forget to consider the task at hand - since you may need additional PPE to be most productive and safe. Consider these tips when dressing for work on the farm:

  • Avoid hoods and strings on shirts and jackets
  • Avoid loose clothing
  • Ensure that all hair is tied back and out of the way
  • Pack/wear sun protection when possible and wide brim hats
  • Wear clothes that block the sun, like those with high ultra-protection factor ratings
  • Wear reflective clothing and vests when possible
  • Depending on the job, consider chemical and fire-resistant clothing

How to Get Dependable Farm and Ranch Coverage

Safety matters to you and everyone who plays a role in the success of your farm or ranch. By taking all the steps you can to help to ensure you have a safer farming environment, you’re doing what you can to blanket your operation in protection.

Want to be even more proactive? Connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to learn more about farm and ranch insurance and get a custom-crafted policy that protects everything you’ve worked so hard for.

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    Enhance Your Farm's Digital Presence

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    What content are you putting on each platform?

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    Building a Website for Your Farm

    Now that you have a better idea of some digital basics, let’s put that knowledge into practice — starting with your website. The internet is a powerful tool to market the product(s) your farm produces, and creating a website is a key way to harness its potential. Follow these guidelines for website best practices:

    Set goals. Spontaneity has its time and place, but building a website to market your brand isn’t the situation to jump in without a plan. It’s important to set realistic, achievable goals for round one of your website. Keep in mind, your site is a work in progress and can be improved upon in many iterations. Consider what you want your website to achieve. Are you selling products? Do you offer a CSA? Do you want to educate people on agriculture? Maybe you’ll create a gallery to show images of the fun you have on your farm. Take the time to sit down and list out a few goals for round one. With your plan in place, it’ll make the next steps that much easier.

    Creating the website. You’ll need to decide if you want to hire someone to create your website or if you plan on crafting one yourself. Many sites exist that make it super easy to create and maintain your own website — and most of them are even free to use! If you choose to have someone develop a website for you, make sure it implements a content management system so you can update the site yourself. This way, you can easily keep things relevant without always having to go back to the designer (and pay them) to make changes.

    Provide a clear description of who you are. If someone stumbled upon your website, would they be able to identify who you are and the purpose of your farming business within a matter of seconds? That’s your goal — create a homepage that’ll attract and retain your customer’s attention so they’ll stay on your page. Make sure the name of your business stands out and a summary of your products and services is included.

    Clear navigation. In order to guide your customers to discover all the great things about your business, you’ll want a navigation menu with clear links that lead to your pages. A dropdown menu offers an easy way for your visitor to see all that you have to offer, no matter which page they’re on. You’ll ultimately decide which pages you want on your page, but home, about us, newsletter, calendar, contact us, links to your social media pages and other important services you offer are common pages to include on your website. Remember, your pages will align with the goals you set at the beginning.

    How to Create a Farm E-Newsletter

    No matter what type of farming you do, an e-newsletter is a simple and effective way to promote your farm. An e-newsletter is a periodic “report” with information and news about your farm and, in this case, is distributed to your subscribers via email. This form of marketing can be very effective because it’s targeted to people who have already taken interest in what you’re doing.

    So what should you know about creating an e-newsletter? Start with these three tips:

    Newsletter content. A good rule of thumb to follow is to include content that’s 90% educational and 10% promotional. Chances are the person who subscribed to your e-newsletter wants to get to know your business better and continue to stay informed — not be pushed to buy something. Providing educational, relevant information builds trust between your reader and your business. Here are some ideas for content you might include:

    • Whether you sell meat or vegetables, recipes are a fun way to mix your product with something useful to the consumer. It may even encourage a customer to buy your product.
    • Life on the farm isn’t something everyone gets to experience. Include a fun story about how your farm runs or an anecdote about your animals. This way your reader can vicariously experience farm life.
    • Is your farm open to the public? Include visiting hours, what they can expect to experience and any upcoming special events.
    • If you offer volunteer opportunities, include how to volunteer and/or a testimony from a previous volunteer.
    • Will you be at a farmer’s market or farming expo? Be sure to list anywhere you plan on appearing as vendors.
    • Reward your subscribers with a discount or coupon every now and then to show you appreciate their business.
    • Is there something unique about your farm? Let it be known!

    There’s no end to the content you can include in your newsletter, but most importantly, make sure it’s relevant and have an understanding what your reader is looking for.

    Newsletter design. A newsletter can be sent by mail, email or included on your website. Our suggestion is to send your subscribers an email as well as include a web page for your newsletters on your website. That way non-subscribers can view the newsletter and hopefully become subscribers! Here are a few things to keep in mind for the layout of your newsletter:

    • Create a header at the top of the page that includes the title of your newsletter, your company name and logo.
    • Use subheadings to organize and break up the pieces of content. A subhead should be smaller than your main heading and bigger than the text you use for your content blocks.
    • Choose a color scheme. If you have a brand logo, defer to those colors.
    • The legibility of your newsletter is very important, so stick to one or two fonts, since too many fonts can give a disorganized look.
    • Have a balance of images and text. An image grabs a reader’s attention and offers a visually appealing element to your newsletter. It can be used to break up the page so as to not overwhelm the reader with too much content.
    • Don’t create a five-page newsletter. Keep it to a page or two. The newsletter is designed to provide quick, digestible information that grabs your reader’s attention.

    Newsletter frequency. How often should you send your newsletter? Most people choose to send a weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter. It all comes down to your own personal goals and what your business offers. If you have a lot of events happening on your farm or are very customer-focused, sending a weekly newsletter is a good idea. If you don’t think you’ll have much time to put into a weekly newsletter, go for the quarterly and make sure to spend time filling it with all the great things that have gone over the last three months. A monthly newsletter is a good, doable balance for busy farmers who need to keep their customers updated but don’t have a lot of time.

    Just remember — your newsletter is meant to attract your target audience and give them a reason to stick with you. Do what’s realistic for your business and have fun with it!

    Social Media and Your Farm

    Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — just a few social media platforms you can use to easily promote your farm. And they are pretty simple to set up and maintain! Our advice is to focus on building out your presence on one platform and slowly work your way into creating more accounts once you get the hang of marketing through social media. Here’s a closer look at some great ways you can use social media on your farm

    A thought-out, well-run digital presence can benefit your farm in many ways. With the right goals and strategy in place, you can give your farm a digital edge. Your next steps? Go dig around the Internet and do some research. What kinds of farming websites exist? What kind of information do other farms include in their e-newsletters? Start following some successful farm’s on social media. Take a look at what already exists on the web to gain ideas on what might work or not work for your own strategy.

    Remember — it’s all about knowing your audience and what they’re looking for. At the end of the day, it’s about making your customer happy.