Posts Tagged ‘machinery’

A Harvest Prayer

Nine years ago I received one of those phone calls that no wife wants to hear:

“Hey, honey, I’m okay but I had a little accident at work today…”

While transferring grain, Big C was using an extension cord to power a small electric motor. There was a problem with the cord, and it began to shock him. The electricity caused his hand muscles to tighten around the cord, leaving him unable to let go. He fell down and that’s what alerted our neighbor, who was helping at the farm that day, to see what was going on. He quickly realized what was happening and unplugged the cord, preventing any further injury.

My heart’s pounding right now as I write this, remembering that conversation.

He ended up with deep burns on his hand, but no other serious injuries. He was very fortunate that day. It wouldn’t have taken much for me to have received a very different phone call.

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Farming is a dangerous business, consistently ranking in the top ten deadliest occupations in America, along with loggers, commercial fishermen, construction workers, and truck drivers. Farmers operate heavy machinery, work with animals, spend time outdoors in all types of weather conditions, climb tall structures and crawl into tight spaces, work long hours, and handle hazardous materials. And much of this work is done miles away from medical facilities, in places where cell phone service is sometimes spotty at best, adding precious seconds to response time in critical situations.

Not only do farmers have to be aware of their own activities, they also must watch out for people who don’t understand just how slowly large equipment moves down the road or how much time it takes to stop a loaded semi. Every year, I see people impatient to pass on narrow country roads, or crowding intersections where trucks need to make wide turns. According to the University of Illinois Extension, a car traveling at 55 mph when 400 feet behind a tractor traveling 15 mph only takes seven seconds to reach the tractor. Seven seconds. That’s not much time to avoid a collision.

Every year there are tragic stories of farm lives ended too soon, and even more near misses, whether realized at the time or not.

Technology has certainly made farming much safer today than it was a century ago. Our machinery is safer, with features like warning lights, system monitoring computers, and autosteer. Personal protective equipment like gloves, goggles, and respirators are used when handling fertilizer, herbicide, and manure. Remote cameras can be used to monitor grain bins and livestock barns. But farmers still incur a significant amount of risk every single day.

Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs, coined the slogan “Safety Third” on the show, after realizing that if safety was purely the top priority, very little work would actually get done. He writes: “Risk is everywhere. It can be understood and managed, but never eliminated. Risk is first. Getting the job done is second.”

And that puts safety a very near and very important, third.

 

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Every morning I pray for farmers, especially mine and especially during planting and harvest, to work hard and think clearly, to react appropriately and with safety (even third) in mind. I pray that others they interact with also show good judgement and respect in their actions, and that my evening prayer can be one of thanksgiving, for another day when everyone goes home in one piece to their families, even if that day really ends in the wee hours of the next one.

 

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