Now hear this: Cellphones and farm safety

Smartphones are becoming an indispensable part of farming operations. From special apps that control the GPS in your irrigation system to time trackers and weather alerts, farmers are increasingly leveraging the power of technology.

Plus, for farmers who work long hours, smartphones are a valuable link between home and work. From texting a coworker about whether the grain hauler is ready to checking in with the kids after school, cellphones offer an efficient way to stay connected.

But with that convenience comes some added danger. Cellphone use and distracted driving is a major issue, and driving a tractor down the road requires much the same precautions as driving a car, if not more. The need for extra clearance from mailboxes, signs, power lines, and passing vehicles calls for special attention and alertness.

Farming comes with a host of other job site dangers too, and someone looking down at a phone or absorbed in a conversation may not be fully aware of what’s going on around them. Cellphones can be a deadly distraction on a farm, even for workers walking around on foot. They may accidentally walk in front of heavy equipment or into another hazard.

A few farm safety cellphone tips:
  • Heavy equipment. Forbid the use of cellphones while operating ATVs, tractors, or other equipment. Place calls when you’re not moving.
  • Safe zones. Designate cellphone safe zones around the barn where employees (and family members) can use their phones. Alternately, post “no cellphone” zones in hazard areas and traffic paths.
  • Phone breaks. Consider offering sanctioned cellphone breaks (akin to smoke breaks) so farm workers can safely check in with family every few hours.
Of course, cellphones are a great safety tool for farmers working in isolation or remote locations. If working alone in a potentially hazardous situation, call a family member or coworker first and plan a time to check back in.

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