It’s that time of the year… wheat harvest time. If you were anywhere near a wheat field in the last few days, you may have heard it. The roll and rumble of the combines starting their work.

The machines, for many farmers, are magic — in goes these golden stems and out comes golden grain.

You may hear farmers talking under their breath about the machines and how they are constantly needing repairs. And in another breath, you can hear them praising the machines for their strength, endurance and their safety. For some, it’s a love- hate relationship, for others, it’s one of confidence and hope. But for many grain farmers, the combine means the check is in the mail.

Some combines were idled part of this past weekend or at least slowed in some areas because grain elevators either had reduced hours or no hours due to the holiday. And I know from my experience, I could see the producers getting antsy. They just couldn’t relax. After all, a picnic is fun, but there is work to do.

However, the motors are cranking today and trucks are being started and harvest will be full speed ahead. Let’s just hope, everyone takes a second to keep safety in mind.Here are some safety tips to keep in mind as combines rev up.

• Whether you are the combine operator or the operator of a vehicle on the road today, remember safety. Share the road! Move over if you see a combine coming down the road. Don’t try to hog the road or show you are the boss. Someone will get hurt in that showdown.

• Combine operators, make sure all of your lights are working, before heading out onto the road. There is nothing worse than waiting until dark, deciding to move the combine and finding out that there are no working lights.

• Wear clothing that fits snugly to avoid catching clothing in moving parts on the combine.

• Before starting to harvest a field, check it carefully for ditches, fences or other obstacles. Be aware of weather that presents safety hazards.

• Hillside combines are equipped with automatic or manual leveling devices. Hydraulic cylinders act to level these combines on steep slopes. These machines are equipped with a warning signal that indicates when the leveling system has reached its limit. Be especially careful after the device activates.

• Always keep the machine clean. Field trash around the exhaust system can cause fires. Mud, grease or oil on the operator’s platform or ladders can cause falls.

• Before lubricating or adjusting the combine, disengage all drives and stop the engine. Never leave the operator’s platform with the engine running.

• Make sure that the header drive and separator drive are disengaged before attempting to clean the combine. Never try to unclog the machine with a stick or pole with the machine is running.

• On a pull-type combines, always disengage the PTO and turn off the tractor before attempting to unclog, adjust or lubricate the machine.

• Always stop the machine before opening the inspection doors.

• Keep all shields in place. After working on the combine, make sure the shields are fastened securely.

• When operating in very dusty or noisy locations, wear goggles and ear plugs as preventive measures to insure safe visibility and prevent hearing loss.

• Stay clear of moving parts at all times.

• When adjusting the wheel spacing, make certain the machine is blocked. Never rely on jacks alone for support.

• Avoid sparks or open flames when working the battery. Hydrogen gas escaping from the battery may explode.

• When possible always refuel the combine outside the field. Let the engine cool before attempting to refuel and never smoke around fuels.

High-pressure fluid leaks in the hydraulic or diesel fuel system are very dangerous. The leaks can be invisible and still have enough pressure to penetrate the skin. When checking for leaks, use a piece of cardboard. If an injury does occur, seek medical aid immediately.

• Always carry a first aid kit and fire extinguisher on the combine.

Source: Fundamentals of Machine Operation – Combines, Deere & Co. and the National AG Safety Database.


Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses with her husband, Kurt. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism.
Kristy Foster Seachrist
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