Safety in the field

September 29, 2022 | Jeff Hutton

As we transcend from the summer to the early days of autumn with the golden sunsets and changing hues of the Iowa landscape, there’s no question where farmers will be spending much of their time.

Harvest season is here, and producers are taking advantage of the mild and dry conditions to get into their fields.

While the weather is cooperating, there are also safety concerns in rural Iowa as harvest gets under way.

Being prepared

Law enforcement officials offered some good advice in case emergency services are needed:

“With harvest fast approaching we ask area farmers and their employees to be aware of the physical location of the fields they are working in should they need emergency services,” the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “Most bare farm fields do not have a 911 address so be sure to note the closest intersection to where you are working and what direction you are from that intersection.”

“Getting an accurate location to emergency services can be difficult when working in rural farm fields,” says Chief Deputy Ben Veren with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office. “Even though dispatch centers can usually map the location of a 911 call, it is not always accurate or precise especially in areas with spotty cell phone coverage. In the case of an emergency, try to give directions from the nearest intersection or address marker and if someone is available, have them go to the roadway to meet fire or EMS personnel.”

Veren says many sheriff’s deputies across the state are equipped with medical kits and automatic defibrillators (AEDs). It is not uncommon for them to be the first to arrive on scene of medical emergencies in rural areas. 

Veren says first-aid kits in farm equipment should be paramount.

“With farmers working long hours during harvest, the extra fatigue greatly increases the chance of accidents or injuries,” he says. “Often times, we’re in a hurry to make repairs to keep the operation moving. Even simple repairs like changing a broken sickle section on a bean platform have the potential for serious lacerations. We encourage farmers to have a first aid kit with them out in the field. Most rural areas often experience longer wait times for EMS and it’s important to know where that first aid kit is located and how to use it.

Motorists should be on alert

Drivers can expect to be sharing the road with farm equipment for the next several weeks, especially in light of the excellent weather conditions forecasted for the next two weeks. 

“Farm tractors, combines and implements are much larger and heavier than the average car or truck,” Veren says. “Drivers should also be aware that trucks and farm tractor trailers will be turning in and out of farm field drives where drivers aren’t used to seeing turning traffic. Drivers should be patient and make sure it is safe to pass slow-moving equipment.”

The deputy says farmers can also do their part to help improve the safety of their equipment on the roadway by ensuring that all warning lights and reflectors are in place and working properly and keeping mirrors and windows clean to allow the operator to safely see other motorists on the roadways.

“It’s also important to remember for operators of the slow-moving vehicles to use turn signals and visually check before making turns to ensure that nobody is passing,” Veren says. “Farmers should make sure to use amber warning flashers when driving slow-moving farm equipment on the roadways after dark.”