A number of Pennsylvania farmers lose fingers, hands, arms, and even feet in corn harvesting equipment each year. Some lose their lives. Nearly all of the accidents are preventable, but risk-taking, carelessness, or lack of knowledge allow them to happen. Such tragedies can be prevented, however, especially if farm workers understand the hazards these machines present and practice the safety precautions needed to avoid them.
Most serious com harvesting accidents involve either cornpickers or corn combines. Because these machines perform similar tasks, the dangers that are related to their operation are similar, too. Burns, severe cuts, entrapment, amputations and death are hazards of both.
Because of their size, it is dangerous to use corn harvesting equipment, particularly combines, near ditches or streams. The banks along these channels can give way under the picker or combine and upset it. As a rule, to prevent accidents of this nature, keep the center of gravity of your machine as far from the edge of a channel as the channel is deep. For instance, if the bank rises six feet from a ditch, keep at least six feet between the bank's edge and the center of your machine.
Dry corn can catch fire and burn rapidly endangering not only you and your equipment, but your crops as well. Be alert for overheated bearings or belts and remove accumulations of chaff and stalks from near the manifold. For added safety and the ability to act quickly in an emergency, your harvesting machinery should be equipped with a fire extinguisher at all times.
Harvesting corn is a demanding task requiring constant alertness on the part of the machine operator. Due to poorly operating equipment and/or long working hours, farmers frequently become fatigued and then cannot maintain the level of awareness that is required to safely complete their task. This problem can be avoided, however, through careful planning before the harvest. For example, "downtime" can be reduced in most cases by inspecting and repairing corn harvesting equipment before harvest day arrives. And although long hours in the field are often necessary, working time can be structured in a way that will allow you to rest periodically. This can be done by setting up shifts and changing off once or twice a day if you are able to share the work with someone else, or by shutting off the machine and taking a break every couple of hours when working alone.
On corn harvesting equipment, as with all other farm vehicles, carrying extra riders is a serious hazard. Unnecessary riders not only run the risk of falling under the machinery or getting caught in exposed belts or gears, they also distract the driver and can affect his driving performance. When operating corn combines make sure no one enters the grain tank or stands near the stalk chopper when the machine is running. Occasionally children may be drawn by curiosity or a sense of adventure o the corn field where the harvesting is taking place. Therefore, always be on the lookout for children in the field ahead. The best way to prevent second party accidents, though, is to keep all individuals not involved in the harvest, especially children, far away from the corn harvesting operation.
efficient corn harvest in autumn depends a great deal upon
how well you prepare for accidents. Be aware of the hazards
the weather, fatigue, second parties, and embankments pose.
Most of all, remember that the key factor in most corn harvesting
accidents is the failure of the operator to stop the power
before unclogging or servicing his equipment. Whenever you
need to leave your equipment to service it, do one very important
thing before you do anything else: TURN IT OFF!
Publication #: 15
This document was published in 1992 as Pennsylvania State University Fact Sheet Safety Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension Service. For more information, contact Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Engineering Department, 246 Agricultural Engineering Building, University Park, PA 16802.
Dennis J. Murphy, professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.
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