Maintenance helps keep farmers safe The harvest is in full force, but during breaks and rest time farmers should think about machinery maintenance, said Bill Campbell, Extension farm machinery and safety specialist at South Dakota State University.
A shorter and safer harvest is the reward of preventative maintenance, "Proper maintenance will optimize the farmers time in the field during harvest, and help keep them safe," said Campbell.
Campbell recommends running machines to find any problems far before harvest, and notes that last year's maintenance concerns can resurface year to year. If certain components of the machine are nearing the end of their life expectancy, get the part on hand, Campbell said.
"If a certain bearing on a machine goes out every 500 to 600 hours, and you are coming upon 475 hours, go out and at least get one of those bearings in stock so you don't have to worry about a 50- to 100-mile round trip to your nearest implement dealer at the last minute," said Campbell.
When a piece of machinery is taken to the field before performing preventative maintenance, safety problems can occur. This downtime in the field can cause farmers to work faster and want to catch up once the machine is fixed.
"Many times, they'll end up having an accident because of this rush they put themselves into," Campbell said.
Preventing accidents just doesn't stop with maintenance.
Farmers need to take care of personal maintenance as well, by taking care and thinking about themselves as a whole. Campbell urges farmers to analyze both their physical and mental shape, so they can take corrective measures before placing themselves in dangerous situations.
"A person can sit only so many hours a day in a combine cab and watch four, six, or eight rows of a crop going into the front end of the combine before their mind starts to wander," said Campbell.
Exhaustion is a warning sign to take a break. Get out of the cab and walk around or talk to someone. Also, it helps alertness and basic concentration to have someone ride in the cab with you.
"Companionship can help keep a person mentally alert and keep them from being quite as physically exhausted as they would be if they were sitting there alone 12 or more hours a day," said Campbell.
Campbell said a rider should be allowed in the combine cab only if the extra person can be accommodated with a rider seat.
"It's best if farmers can think of both maintenance and safety as they enter the harvest time," said Campbell. "If they're down or laid up for any length of time a portion of the crop could be lost."