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.

Drowsy driving is impaired driving

You get in the car, already a little tired and worried about staying alert for the road ahead. You roll your windows down, suck on hot cinnamon candy, turn up the radio, and chug an energy drink. You may think you’re taking precautions, but what you’re really doing is putting yourself (and others) in danger.

When you’re driving, dozing off for even a few seconds can be fatal. The National Department of Transportation estimates drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries each year in the U.S.

A study from the AAA Foundation shows more than a third of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, with drowsy drivers involved in an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes.

Drive rested
The best advice is to get plenty of sleep, plan ahead, and avoid driving when you know you’ll be fatigued. But if you’re already on the road and realize you’re too tired to drive, pull over somewhere safe and take a nap. A few tips:
  • Sleeping in a vehicle on the side of the highway is dangerous. If you need to pull over, try to find a parking lot rather than a roadside or off-ramp.
  • When napping at a rest stop, park near the building under the lights for personal security.
  • Larger truck stops and 24-hour gas stations have cameras and lots of activity, which can make them safer places to take a nap.
One more thing: You can’t predict when you’re about to fall asleep. In a AAA Foundation study of drivers who fell asleep and crashed, nearly half said they felt only “slightly drowsy” or “not at all drowsy” just before an accident.

Why “haste makes waste” still rings true

The old adage of “haste makes waste” is a reliable principle for a reason even though the time and expense of doing a job right doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort sometimes. But rushing seldom saves that much time to make a real difference, and it can reflect poorly on you or your work ethic if others take notice.

And there’s a greater consequence than harming your reputation. Hurrying in our personal lives and on the job can be both costly and tragic. Whether stepping on the accelerator at the sight of a yellow traffic light or failing to double-check that the power is shut off before working on an electrical connection, the risk is not worth the potential loss of time, money, and possibly even life.

The law of large numbers suggests that the more you are exposed to certain risks, the more likely you will be involved in a costly or tragic event.

Getting a job done faster is not worth the risk of gambling with your limbs, eyes, or livelihood. Those you love are important enough for you to practice proper safety. If you’re a business owner, the lives of people in your community, your customers, and your employees can be affected too.

Many great innovations about how to improve a job have come from employees. If a worker thinks they know a way to do a job quicker, encourage them to propose their ideas to their boss. Just don’t encourage them to get to the next job more quickly, or be dismissive of safety protocols. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you.

Believe it or not, some leaders suggest that procrastination is sometimes a good thing. Time brings clarity and can calm the impulse to act in haste.

So, don’t rush it. There is a safe and proper procedure for everything.

6 tips for pet safety on the water

A day on (or near) the water is fun for the whole family, your dogs included. But before you take your pup out for a paddle, keep these safety tips in mind:
  1. Start slow. Not all dogs are built for swimming, and puppies aren’t born knowing how to swim. Introduce your pet to the water slowly, starting in shallow water. Never throw or force an animal in.
  2. Surroundings. When playing by a lake or river, check the surroundings before you let your pet roam. Be on the lookout for broken glass, fishing line, algae scum, and underwater currents.  
  3. Pool safety. Provide a ramp or slanted ladder and teach your dog how to climb out of the pool on its own. For small breeds or aging dogs who could fall in accidentally, you might invest in a Safety Turtle — a loud, water-activated alarm your pet can wear on its collar.   
  4. Boating. Get a dog life vest before your next boat or canoe trip. Remember, accidents do happen! Look for a preserver with a good, sturdy handle on the back. That makes it a lot easier to lift a heavy, water-logged, wiggling dog back into a boat. 
  5. Playtime. Swimming can be exhausting. It’s up to you to call an end to playtime and help your pet avoid overexertion. Keep alert when visiting children are playing with your pet. They should respect that your pooch may need more breaks than they do.
  6. Sunscreen. Dogs can get sunburn too — particularly thin-haired breeds. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin and the bridge of the nose. Get a specially formulated pet sunscreen or look for one without zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs. 
Next time you head to a beach, stream, or pool, be sure to take this knowledge with you to keep your furry friends safe on the water.

Top 6 tips to prevent theft from work vehicles

Imagine this scenario: The owner of a small landscape company stopped at a local service station to buy a root beer. When he came out, he noticed his leaf blower was missing. Panicked, he back-tracked to his last customer, thinking the blower might have bounced out of the truck bed. It was nowhere to be found.

He returned to the service station and dug the receipt for his soda out of his pocket, which had the time printed on it. The station attendant looked through the surveillance video during the time of his purchase and saw an RV pull up alongside the truck. When the RV left, the leaf blower was gone. The thieves were never caught.

Recovery of stolen equipment is complicated by poor tracking of serial numbers by owners. Recovered equipment often is sold at police auctions because it cannot be traced back to the proper owners. Follow these tips to help avoid theft in the first place, and to have a better chance of getting it back if something does get stolen.
  1. Make it less attractive. A unique color scheme, like painting all your equipment hot pink, can make it less appealing to would-be thieves. They know you could spot them on your daily customer routes. Honest competitors will refuse to buy them, and thieves will be discouraged by how much harder they are to sell with colors that scream “ownership.”
  2. Keep it out of reach. Low-wall trailers and pickup beds make for easy pickings. Don’t place high-valued equipment where it can be snatched by merely reaching over the side of a truck bed or trailer. Use high-wall trailers or sidewalls where equipment cannot easily be reached. Locked enclosed trailers or pickup toppers are your safest bet.
  3. Use a locking bar. A locking bar or pipe inserted though handles will secure equipment to the trailer. This is especially useful when making those quick runs to a convenience store for a restroom break, snacks, or fuel.
  4. Be street wise when at customer sites. Watch for cars that make multiple passes by your vehicles or trailers, or slow down when passing your trailer. If you feel wary, ask a second employee to watch the truck and trailer, or ask the customer to help.
  5. Work in pairs. Make sure one employee always has the truck and trailer within sight. Two employees working together are always more of a perceived threat than one isolated employee. It can be enough to discourage many would-be thieves.
  6. Photograph every piece of equipment. High resolution photos can document not just the model number, but the serial number, too. Keep duplicate records on your computer. If a theft occurs, you’ll have a record of exactly what was stolen.

Make sure your workers understand the principle of nonresistance if they encounter a thief, and that they have far less control of the outcome if they fight back. It is much easier to replace equipment than an employee.

By following these tips, you have a better chance of keeping your equipment safe and, more importantly, protecting your employees’ well-being.