Author

Heather Stone

I have a passion for proactively preventing accidents.  I’ve had varying experiences which range from  ~17 years in oil and gas to years as a EHS consultant.  During my time in oil and gas I have worked in various production and EHS roles. I have a Masters degree in Environmental Management and Industrial Hygiene.  I am a Certified Safety Professional. I started with FBN in November 2021 as a Senior EHS Analyst. It's a different role for me.  My role is to create,implement and maintain an EHS management database and develop metrics. I choose this position as FBNs mission and values speak to me as an EHS professional.


Sep 20, 2022

by Heather Stone

Farmers face many hazards and opportunities to reduce risk on their farm, especially during harvest. Sometimes when we take a risk, we think the “stories” we hear won’t happen to us. I’d like to challenge you to think about whether you know of people, families, or communities impacted by losing a loved one on the farm.  Around this time last year my father-in-law told me about a man that had died in an accident on his farm. My father-in-law told me the man was well liked at his company and in his farming community.  He entered a silo to make a repair and subsequently was found dead, submerged in grain.  Plan for a Safe Harvest  Farming takes a great deal of planning, forecasting, research and hard work in order to maximize potential profit. Farming safely requires even more effort but the outcome is significantly different; “maximizing potential” means you go home unharmed to your family each day. Below are some areas to focus on while you develop your plan for harvest. 1. Grain bins and silos Are confined spaces with hazards that can change in the blink of an eye. Don’t work alone if you must enter them, use the buddy system. Recognize and discuss the hazards prior to performing the job. Plan for the hazards that you know are present such as:  Suffocation from engulfment or entrapment Explosions due to high amounts of grain dust Falls from heights Crushing and amputation from grain equipment  2. Equipment Should be made harvest ready at least several weeks before harvest or during the off-season. Review operation manuals and follow the manufacturer's guidelines.   Never overlook safety labels because oftentimes they bring attention to hidden hazards such as energized areas, moving parts, or pinch points. Do not modify equipment. Are all the machine guarding and shields in place?  If not, why not?   Powered-take off (PTO) injuries are common on the farm,  according to the National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD), shielding is absent or damaged in 70% of the injuries . Farm workers should wear well-fitted clothing to prevent entanglement in farming equipment.  3. Overhead power-lines  Can be dangerous when working with tall equipment. Do you and your farm workers know where your overhead power-lines are? You should check for changes and sagging that may have occurred during the off-season. You can ask local utility companies to help determine the height of overhead lines on your farm.   Many types of farm equipment have risks of contacting overhead lines such as tractors with front end loaders, equipment with antennas, portable grain-augers, etc. NASD recommends if your equipment contacts an overhead like stay put and call for help.  If there is an emergency, jump as far away from the equipment as possible. Never allow any body part to touch the equipment and the ground at the same time. Do not get back on the equipment until the utility company has removed the hazard.  4. Corn pickers, combines, tractors Are big machines with lots of moving parts. Do you know what types of equipment can cause serious injuries on your farm?  If corn pickers and combines are clogged, train farm workers to turn the equipment off, ensure it's fully stopped, then attempt to free debris.   Inform workers of pinch points where clothing, fingers, and legs can get caught. Always use the handrails to mount and dismount the equipment. Keep the steps free of dirt to avoid slips and falls. Do you have wells, equipment, gates, above ground pipelines, etc. marked to ensure safe turning of your equipment?  Tractor accidents in farming tend to lead to serious if not fatal injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) , “An operator's chance of surviving a tractor turnover without a serious injury is good if the tractor has a roll-over protective structure (ROPS) and the operator is wearing a seat belt.”   5. Agricultural equipment on public roads  Have Federal and State regulations. You must know the specific regulations you are required to meet for lighting and marking prior to getting on public roads. New agricultural equipment that will be operated on a public road must meet standards set forth in ANSI/ASAE 279.14 JUL2008 “ Lighting and Marking of Agricultural Equipment on Highways .”   Some additional things to plan for prior to getting farm equipment on roads are:    Can the equipment be moved on public roads during daylight hours to avoid driving in the dark?  Do you know the towing capacity of your equipment, correct hitches and chaining?  Weight and towing affects speed. Have you communicated that with all drivers?  Plan and discuss dual brake pedals, climbing and descending hills, lane usage, etc. Don’t assume that your workers know how to safely drive on public roads. 6. Feeling tired Stop and take a break.  If you're not getting enough sleep it can become a safety hazard. When you're tired your reaction time is slower, you can have trouble remembering things, and are at risk of falling asleep on the job. Several studies show lack of sleep and being tired can be compared to being drunk. NIOSH posted a study that states b eing awake for 17 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. 7. Hydration and good nutrition Is vital to keep yourself healthy during harvest. Eating small snacks, not skipping meals, and staying hydrated is important. Implementing these habits during harvest will provide continuous energy to cope with busy, stressful, and long workdays. Don’t forget your sleep! 8. Additional safety topics to consider for harvest  Adequate lighting during pre-dawn and after dusk activities.  Temperatures still get high during Fall months. Plan to bring enough water for the day, even though the mornings may be cooler. Have a plan for equipment breakdowns and maintenance.  If you are working alone, always be sure someone knows where you will be during the day.  Have a plan if you are injured or equipment breaks down. Have personal protective equipment purchased and ready. For example, respirators that meet NIOSH N95 requirements to prevent inhalation of grain dust. Clear debris from roads on your farm. Check your roads for potholes and ruts that can unbalance heavy equipment.  Make sure there is supervision for children during this busy time. Stay safe this harvest. You are someone’s child, parent, or grandparent. No job is so important and so urgent it can’t be done safely.  Learn more about FBN® Health Staying safe on the farm is vital for you, your family and your employees. And staying healthy is just as important. Whether you’re looking for a new health insurance plan or looking to save money, FBN Health may be able to help. Learn more about what FBN Health has to offer. Additional resources 10 Harvest Safety Tips to prevent Accidents on the Farm  Grain Bin Safety  Guarding Against Corn Harvesting Accidents  9 Tips for Keeping Yourself Healthy during Harvest  Copyright © 2014 - 2022 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, “Farmers Business Network”, “FBN”, "Farmers First" and “FBN Direct” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc. 


Aug 08, 2022

by Heather Stone

Farmers like you have a lot to think about everyday. Weather, crop yield, market prices, chemical usage and government policies are all elements you have to plan for and consider in your operations.  While thinking about your livelihood and the uncertainties that can affect profitability, safety risks are often deprioritized. Statistically, farming is one of the most hazardous occupations. According to the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH)” in 2019, 410 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 19.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.” Ultimately, injuries and illnesses have the potential to harm colleagues and family members you work alongside. These injuries also have the potential to result in major costs to your farm's bottom line. Insurance is an operating cost that you likely see every month on your balance sheet.  Crop insurance, workers compensation insurance, livestock insurance and health insurance for your family are all examples. Insurance premiums typically rise with the frequency and cost of claims.  Even a minor accident can involve time, money, people and resources which can impact current and future operations. Create a strong safety culture on your farm You have a huge responsibility as a farmer to ensure the safety of your operation, whether it’s you and a few seasonal workers or a larger scale operation.Your workers place their safety and health in your hands. Your leadership and the culture you create on your farm will help ensure your team goes home safely to their family each evening.  Here are a few simple steps you can take to build a strong safety culture on on your farm, while also reducing costs to your bottom line: 1. Start each day with a safety moment Talk to your employees about the tasks that will be performed during the day, review the risks involved and discuss what steps will be taken to reduce those risks. Encourage each employee to speak up and share stories and ideas. Talking about safety to start the work day only takes a few moments, but sends a message about how much you prioritize safety.  2. Encourage employees to speak up Are safety concerns openly discussed on your farm? Are workers encouraged to speak up without fear of punishment, ridicule or dismissal? The more employees are encouraged to speak up, the more opportunities you will have to identify an issue before it becomes an accident. 3. Focus on the cause, not the person Often when an incident occurs we are quick to blame. The truth is, people do make mistakes, but it’s not intentional. Most mistakes happen because we didn’t set the employee up for success. Was the training adequate? Was the workload acceptable? Were there other stresses (e.g. weather, time of day, etc.) that contributed to the accident? By focusing on what caused the individual to fail, you can make improvements that will drive success. 4. Make safety part of everyone’s job The National Agricultural Tractor Safety initiative reports, “ Tractors cause about 130 deaths annually ”  Equipment and facilities on the farm should be inspected regularly. Get your team involved in these inspections and coach them on the hazards they should be looking for. From a wasp nest in an overhang to a pinch point on a sprayer, the more they look for hazards, the greater the chance they can avoid — or eliminate — them. 5. Recognize good behaviors Your employees look up to you and model your behaviors. If an employee is taking a few minutes to get a sip of water on a hot day, use it as a chance to thank them for staying hydrated. If an employee is wearing chemical gloves while pouring a pesticide, call out that good behavior. Most importantly, recognize employees who are willing to speak up and bring safety concerns or ideas forward. Never underestimate the power of a “thank you.” You never know when a suggestion may save a life on your farm.  Everyone can be a leader when it comes to safety. It only takes a few small actions, good or bad, to impact the safety culture on your farm. Creating a culture of caring on your farm ensures all employees are looking out for themselves and each other to ensure the work gets done… safely. It also helps you rest better at night knowing your team is home safe with their families and will be ready for work the next day. Additional resources 11 Tips for Farm Safety 5 ways to be proactive about farm safety  Safety on the Farm: Prepare. Prevent. Protect Copyright © 2014 - 2022 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, “Farmers Business Network”, “FBN”, "Farmers First" and “FBN Direct” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc. 


Jun 15, 2022

by Heather Stone

Farming is a dangerous profession. It’s a high risk environment for children, young people and adults. While farms are both your workplace and your home, the thought of a child or young person getting injured or worse is unfathomable.  That’s why it’s important to be proactive about safety on the farm. Whether they’re children or young people, it’s important to keep all members of your family safe. But how do you get started?  Here are 9 things to think about to keep your children and family safe on the farm: 1. What supervision protocols are in place? When farming activities are taking place, who’s keeping an eye on the kids to ensure that they’re out of harm’s way? And at what age should supervision change? This will depend on the child and their understanding of the potential dangers of farming. As an adult and parent, your child’s safety is probably already top of mind.    2. Storing chemicals safely Are chemicals easily accessible on your farm? If so, what precautions can you take to ensure dangerous and hazardous chemicals are stored safely from children? An example of storage ideas can range from fire rated hazmat storage (typically for flammable and hazardous chemicals) to chemical storage cabinets. Make sure whatever you use can be locked up and securely stored. There are stringent U.S. state requirements and age limits for handling certain classes and types of chemicals and pesticides. Additional resources for Canadian and Australian farmers are listed at the bottom of this post. 3. Ride alongs Are ride-alongs ever safe? And at what age should you think about starting to have your child ride along on equipment and tractors? This answer may change depending upon the type, make, model and age of the equipment. Should a tractor with no roll over protection be treated differently than one with it?  Don’t get complacent with a newer tractor.  Does it have enough seatbelts? Can a child fall out of the door if you hit a bump? 4. Farming equipment When should children be given access to farming equipment? What type of training has been provided to the child? Are there other safer activities? If it’s for work on the farm in the U.S. make sure to check Federal and State child labor laws for agriculture. 5. Confined spaces What is a confined space and how can children be made aware of their danger? What are the existing  confined spaces on your farm? Some common confined spaces in farming are: grain bins, silos, vats, underground tunnels and wells, water tanks, manure pits, etc.  6. Buildings and structures Are children aware of the dangers of barns and grain elevators? When is it safe for kids to climb buildings and structures? For more information on the exemptions and fall protection regulations for farms in the U.S. review the Occupational Safety and Health Administration presentation Fall Prevention in Agriculture . 7. Sources of water Are there ponds, rivers, retention ponds, water tanks, springs, wells, etc. on your farm? Can everyone on the farm swim? If some swimmers are stronger than others, are appropriate safety devices available for those who are not as strong or confident? Discuss water safety with your children and specific examples of when and where they are not allowed to swim on the farm and the importance of having someone else around; i.e. having a buddy system for safety purposes.  8. Farm animals How do you keep kids safe around farm animals? What animals are more dangerous than others? Understand that farm animals are unpredictable and everyone should always be aware of the size and dangers of these animals.  9. Other hazards Other hazards to be aware of on your farm include: Overhead power lines Electricity sources Portable grain augers Moving equipment Power take-off shafts  Uncovered grain dust Keeping your family and kids safe is a personal, regulated, and sensitive topic. Opinions will definitely vary and that’s okay. Depending on where you live, country and state laws may vary. Safety awareness of the dangers of farming is an important step to prevent injuries.  Make it a priority to keep your kids safe by talking to them and having discussions about farm safety.  Additional resources for family farmer safety USA Youth in Agriculture eTool National Ag Safety database  NIOSH Agricultural Injury Prevention Canada Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA)  for kids Australia Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety Child Safety on Farms  Copyright © 2014 - 2022 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, “Farmers Business Network”, “FBN”, "Farmers First" and “FBN Direct” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc.