Safety During Harvest Season

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator

As harvest season begins, safety should be a priority on the farm and with grain handling operations. Consider that it is a time that involves long hours and the need for multiple pieces of equipment working simultaneously to be efficient and productive. The continuous activity, diminished daylight and stresses that can be associated with harvest can often lead to agricultural related injuries. Common injuries during fall harvest include slips, trips and falls; blunt trauma incidents; sprains / strains; entanglement; and engulfment.  Guidelines to reduce the risk of an injury during harvest include:

Reducing Fatigue:
- To reduce fatigue, try to get enough sleep.  This is your body’s time to rest.
- Set a pace for yourself, and plan out your day’s activities.
- Take short breaks throughout the day.  Get out of the combine or truck for a few minutes, and do something to get away from the equipment and revitalize.
Equipment Safety:
- Follow the procedures in the operator’s manual of equipment for safe operation, maintenance, and trouble shooting
- Keep equipment properly maintained and check all guards are in position and correctly fitted before starting work.
- Insure equipment has adequate lighting for working in the dark. Increase caution when working in early morning or late evening when daylight is diminished.
- Maintain 3 points of contact when mounting or dismounting equipment.
         (1 hand and 2 feet) or (2 hands and 1 foot)
- Ensure that hand holds or railings are in safe operating condition.
- Exercise caution when steps or walking surfaces are wet or dirty.
- Avoid jumping off of the last step and anticipate changes in ground elevation or rough terrain when dismounting from the last step.
- Be alert to you surroundings. Know where equipment is being positioned and be observant to individuals who may be walking around equipment.
- When working with others around equipment, maintain eye contact and communicate your intentions with the other person.
- Utilize safe travel routes between fields, and take into account potential problems with automobile traffic and narrow roadways. Use escort vehicles when needed.
Grain Handling Safety:
- Use Personal Protective Equipment when appropriate (safety glasses, gloves, etc..).
- Utilize respiratory protection such as an N95 respirator in dusty environments.
- Use hearing protection in work environments louder than 85 decibels for an extended period of time.
- Know where overhead power lines are so they can be avoided when moving equipment or using a portable auger.
- Insure there is adequate lighting at the grain storage facility when working in low light conditions to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
- Never enter a grain bin while grain-handling components, such as augers, are in operation. Lockout/tagout procedures should be developed for all equipment. 
- If you must enter the bin use a body harness, lifeline and station a person at the entry point to monitor the person in the bin.


For more information about the OSU Ag Safety visit or contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-0588.