Winter Farm Safety: 5 Tips to Reduce Risks on the Farm

Heather Stone

Jan. 26, 2023

Cold weather can pose significant risks on the farm, affecting people and equipment. Common winter incidents on a farm include slips, falling from heights such as grain bins, trucks or equipment, hypothermia and drowning.

By taking steps to mitigate these risks, farmers can protect themselves, their workers, and their equipment from harm while continuing to operate safely and efficiently during the winter months.

Here are five tips to think about when planning your day during the winter months: 

1. Continuously Monitor Weather Conditions

Monitor weather conditions throughout the day. Take steps to protect people and equipment from weather conditions before they become severe.

Most locations have limited daylight hours during winter months which makes planning critical. It's important to know when to delay operations as conditions like high wind, extremely low temperature, snow, ice and sleet increase the risk of accidents occurring.

There are free services available to help with continuous monitoring like the National Weather Service, Severe Weather Monitor website and  The 5 best free weather apps for iPhone and Android

2. Be Prepared 

Work chores on the farm don’t stop because of cold weather. Some items to think about before you could be caught or stranded in cold weather include: 

  • Do you have a winter survival kit?  Some items to consider are: 

    • Windshield scraper

    • Flashlight with extra batteries

    • First aid kit

    • Extra water

    • Snack food

    • Matches and candles

    • Necessary medications

    • Survival blanket

    • Booster cables

    • Tow rope

    • Shovel

    • Extra clothing

    • Emergency reflectors

    • Distress flag

  • If using equipment, do you have enough gas? Try to keep gas tanks full. 

  • Tell someone before you leave your regulator route.

  • Keep in regular contact with people who are working in poor weather conditions. 

  • Clearly mark water bodies that may be covered in ice. 

  • Are walkways clear and free of slips, trips and fall hazards?

  • Is it safe to use a four-wheeler in the current weather conditions? 

  • Are you ready for power failures?

  • Huddle up at the start of the day and have a safety discussion on what to do if someone becomes stranded. 

3. Understand the Signs and Symptoms of Cold Weather Illnesses 

One of the most significant ways in which cold weather can negatively impact risk on the farm is by increasing the chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

These conditions occur when the body is unable to maintain a normal temperature, leading to a range of symptoms including numbness, tingling and loss of consciousness. Wind chill is an important factor to consider when planning outdoor work.

The National Weather Service has a Wind Chill Chart that can assist you with planning outdoor work. You should also consider the physical demands of the work being performed in cold conditions to ensure there are periods to take a break and warm-up out of the elements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has additional information on cold weather illnesses, Winter Weather: Plan. Equip. Train

4. Have Warm Clothing and Cold Weather Gear

Farmers and their workers should take steps to stay warm, such as wearing warm clothing, taking frequent breaks to warm up and stay dry. Adding layers of clothing gives options as you warm up and cool off while working.

You lose a lot of heat through your head in extreme cold. Wear headgear that covers your head, ears and provides protection for your face like a jacket with a hood. If possible, wear a water-resistant coat and boots. Insulated and heated clothing, gloves, socks and boots are options to consider and will help protect from hypothermia and frostbite.

I’m from New Zealand so this “Kiwi” wears wool jumpers and socks in cold weather, as wool insulates even when wet. 10 Essential Pieces of Cold Weather Gear for Farmers

5. Under Equipment Differences 

Another way in which cold weather can increase risk on the farm is by making it more difficult to operate equipment. Cold temperatures can cause equipment to be hard to start and ice plugs can form, thus making it difficult to operate equipment.

Additionally, cold weather can cause batteries to lose power more quickly, making it difficult to keep equipment running. To mitigate these risks, farmers should take steps to protect their equipment from the cold, such as storing equipment in a warm, dry place and keeping equipment in good working order. Winter is an ideal time to inspect your equipment and perform maintenance. 

In addition, farm equipment can become dangerous to operate during the winter in the ice and snow. Braking can become difficult, roads can be slick and traction can become sporadic. Further, loads can become unbalanced quickly.

Pre-plan trips with equipment and make sure the weather conditions allow for safe travel and operation. 

A farmer's job is never done. Make it a point to discuss risks on the farm during winter months to keep you, your family and workers safe.

Additional Resources

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Heather Stone

Jan. 26, 2023

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