After two accidents, caution urged around farm equipment

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

One of the region's top trauma hospitals has issued a reminder about farm safety as harvest season approaches.

The advisory comes as local emergency crews were called to a pair of farm equipment accidents in the span of five days.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office said 78-year-old Harvey McClain died Thursday after a tractor he was driving rolled over in a northwest Iowa farm field. The accident occurred at a farm northeast of Harris.

Deputies say McClain was driving the tractor on a hill when the tractor rolled. Construction workers at a nearby farm alerted authorities.

The Sheriff's Office says McClain was pronounced dead at the scene. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Aug. 26 at the First Presbyterian Church in Lake Park. Interment will be at Union Township Cemetery in Harris.

Clay County Deputies were called at 10:49 a.m. Monday to a crash involving a tractor. They cited 35-year-old Jennifer Burney of Whittemore for unsafe passing after she tried to navigate the 2003 Peterbilt she was driving around a 1974 John Deer tractor and chopper operated by a 14-year-old male from Terril.

The tractor and semi were both eastbound on Highway 18 near the 200th Avenue intersection. The teenager was attempting a left turn onto 200th Avenue and deputies said Burney "attempted to pass before noticing the tractor's intention."

"Burney swerved to avoid contact but was unable to avoid the collision," the accident report said. "The impact caused the tractor and implement to enter the east ditch of 200th Avenue."

The Clay County Sheriff's Office was assisted by the Spencer Ambulance. The injuries were considered minor and the drivers were treated at the scene.

Officials at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls said farmers will soon be putting in long hours to harvest their crops. They also called farming one of the world's most hazardous professions.

Overturned tractors, auger mutilations or amputations, grain bin suffocation, chemical poisoning and child accidents or deaths are some of the most devastating farm accidents, according to hospital officials.

"Farms are big operations, leaving room for many risks for accidents," said Dr. John Travnicek, an emergency medicine physician at Avera McKennan. "Being aware of the major risks as well as some general farm safety rules is a good starting point."

The Sioux Falls medical center offered 10 basic safety rules that can help prevent an accident, illness or death from occurring on the farm.

1. Slowly drive the perimeter of the field to familiarize yourself with any slopes, drop-offs, stumps and large rocks.

2. When driving a tractor, take turns slowly. Don't allow the tractor to bounce, which may cause you to lose control of steering.

3. Ensure protective shields are in place before running an auger, and keep the floor around the auger swept clean of debris and fallen seed to prevent falls.

4. Never enter a grain storage unit when grain is coming in from the sides or top. If you must enter a storage unit, wear a safety belt attached to safety lines.

5. When handling chemicals, always wear the proper personal protective equipment, such as chemical-resistant gloves, overalls, masks and goggles.

6. If your teenage sons or daughters help out on the family farm, assign them low-risk tasks. In other words, harvest may not allow you to properly supervise their work in more challenging tasks.

7. Get enough sleep. Being tired reduces alertness and ability to think clearly. If possible, ask neighbors to help you complete tasks and harvest fields. Remember to return the favor.

8. Eat balanced meals and keep a jug of water with you at all times. Hunger and dehydration are distracting.

9. Avoid doing tasks alone, such as running an auger or filling a grain bin.

10. Always carry your cellphone with you. Keep it charged as much as possible.

"Nobody plans on having an accident -- that's why they're called 'accidents,'" Travnicek said in a statement from Avera McKennan.

Travnicek also urged producers to call 911 immediately if they experience possible signs of a heart attack. They include chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Farm operators should also look out for discomfort in the upper body: in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Other symptoms such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, shortness of breath or lightheadedness could be signs of trouble.While chest pain is the most common symptom of heart attack, women can experience a heart attack without the chest pressure, according to the Sioux Falls medical professionals. Instead, they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.

"Harvest is a critical season, and it's very typical for farmers to put their work first, and put their own health on the back burner. But lives are irreplaceable," Travnicek said. "Therefore, safety must be top priority for farmers, ranchers and hired hands at harvest season, and all year around."

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