During harvest, you have a huge amount of work to do within a very short window of time. That urgency is likely what causes accidents and damage.
We want you to accomplish everything you need to do on time, but we want you to do it safely. Start with these harvest safety tips.
Tools and equipment
- Collect owner and operator manuals for all your harvesting equipment.
- Review the operational information and maintenance schedules to determine if specific calibrations, service or preventive maintenance needs to be completed.
- Make sure regularly-scheduled equipment maintenance is being completed throughout the harvest season. Create a written maintenance/servicing checklist.
- Perform operational checks on fans, augers, conveyors and other mechanical equipment.
- Find and organize parts, tools and equipment needed to facilitate immediate servicing, maintenance or repairs to all harvesting or handling equipment.
- Consider purchasing spare parts or additional maintenance/servicing tools for critical pieces of equipment.
Basic safety walkthrough
- Check and repair slip, trip and fall hazards, such as loose ladders, platforms, handrails and steps. Get rid of protruding objects that could cause injury from a trip or fall.
- Clean up debris, weeds or other obstructions that can cause potential injury or impede your ability to work without hindrance.
- Check for loose or missing safety covers and access panels on your equipment and structures.
- Inspect and test LP or natural gas lines, connections or fittings.
- Install warning signs and safety locks at each of your sites.
- Make sure each of your sites has a first aid kit.
Facilities electrical check
- Make sure electrical boxes and connections are weatherproof, water-tight and properly grounded.
- Check for open conduit or exposed wiring.
- Make sure panels and switches are operational.
- Inspect the overhead wiring.
Safety training for employees and family members
- Make sure everyone knows when to get help to prevent bodily injury or damage to equipment.
- Familiarize everyone with new or substitute equipment.
- Restrict access to your handling and storage location. These structures and the equipment associated with them can be a visual attraction, especially to young children.
Focus on efficiency
- Make sure augers are in good working condition, including the auger flighting. “Saw-toothed” flighting not only costs you efficiency while moving grain, but can also cause kernel damage. The more damaged kernels you have, the more chance there is for stored grain to be damaged by mold and micro-organisms.
- Inspect the bucket elevator’s cups, belt and drive pulley for wear. Replace any components that are damaged or worn.
- Make sure your bucket elevator is functioning properly and that the belt runs straight and true within the casing.
- Ensure that the discharge baffle is not worn out or out of adjustment. Preventing grain backflow helps avoid the possibility of plugging the elevator and doing additional damage to the equipment.
- Make sure the elevator boot section is clean and free of debris.
Bin aeration floor
- Remove dust and debris.
- Check your bin roof vents to determine their condition. Replace rusted or damaged vents. Remove any bird nests. Also check areas around the vents for potential places where moisture could enter the bin.
- Check permanently-installed bin reclaim systems or conveying equipment for sound operation and for any damage to the auger flighting.
- Make sure floor gates and sumps are clear of any debris, and open easily.
- Make sure the fill and discharge systems are in good condition. A poorly-maintained or damaged discharge auger can cost you time and money. It can also cause additional damage to your grain and equipment.
- Check the igniter.
- Check and clean the burner. Look for plugged or rusted openings. Consider replacing the burner if you see any cracks or other damage.
- Make sure there are no leaks in the gas lines that feed the burner.
- Run the fan to make sure it operates correctly. Fix or replace any internal or external screens that show excessive wear, rust or damage.
Know your crop
Quantity and quality
- Identify fields that should be harvested earlier or more quickly than others, for both good and bad reasons.
- Pay attention to standability. It can be a significant problem if not identified and dealt with early with the proper crop-protection products.
- Recognize that disease can be accelerated because of cool or damp conditions. And that high winds will have the most severe effect on poorer stands.
Local grain elevators
- Stay in touch with the local elevators for early grain-marketing opportunities. Especially opportunities to move high-moisture (25-30%) corn to grain terminals, without being discounted.
- Local grain merchandisers may reduce their discounts when they need grain to fill their own delivery contracts. Or they may be willing to adjust their discounts for early delivery.
- Waiting too long to shell corn can cause excessive kernel damage during the harvesting process and can lead to other problems during storage.
Drying your corn
- Don’t attempt to dry corn that you’re not set up to dry.
- If you don’t have the right size and type of equipment, move your high-moisture corn to a grain elevator. Or consider replacing your dryer.
- Don’t create a bottleneck in your harvest by trying to dry excessively high-moisture corn when your equipment won’t keep up with your combine.
- Avoid having a bin full of moldy corn that could be docked even more.
- Greatly reduce the risk of injury or death from entrapment or engulfment associated with entering a grain bin.
Check fields for areas of possible erosion or washouts. Write down the locations and tell anyone else who may be operating harvest equipment.
- Evaluate field loss frequently. A properly-calibrated combine should keep corn kernel loss to 1% or less per acre. Much of the loss can happen when full ears bounce to the side of the head.
- Drive fast enough to load your machine, but not so fast you reduce separation efficiency.
- Always refuel your equipment after it has cooled. Fuel vapors can easily ignite on hot engines. Refueling accidents are a major cause of combine fires.
- Keep and maintain a suitable fire extinguisher on each of your combines. Make sure they’re accessible from the ground.
- Grease and complete routine maintenance in the morning when you’re more focused on the task at hand.
- Drive your combine only when you’re alert. Schedule breaks, change jobs with someone and move combines from field to field during daylight.
- Keep your distance from other vehicles and machines. Always be aware of the location of other equipment.
- Blow dirt, chaff, leaves and other debris from the machine as often as possible. Check bearings, shafts, belts and other moving parts for wrapped plant material.
Stay safe on public roads
Harvest season means more farm vehicles will be sharing the roadways with other vehicles. That includes combines and other harvesting equipment moving from one field to another, as well as trucks and tractors transporting produce.
Learn more about staying safe on public roads.