This spring, the nation’s corn farmers executed an extremely successful planting season amidst a swelling pandemic. Now that harvest is nearly upon us, will this season be any different? And what can growers do to assure a safe and timely harvest? Will the steps you took this spring also work this fall?
Jeff Bender, director of the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH), says following CDC guidelines, including social distancing, remains important even if your community has not had a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Prevention is the key to safety, Bender said. During harvest, this means increased vigilance as grain moves from the farm to elevators, ethanol plants, food and feed mills, and rail and river terminals.
Each of these entities are different. They have different approaches to receiving your grain to maintain your safety, their employee’s safety and others who visit the delivery points such as maintenance personnel and grain inspectors.
NCGA reached out to several delivery locations and found one common piece of advice: communicate before harvest with the delivery points you may be using this fall. They should be able to answer questions like:
- Are there any new local or state regulations affecting operations?
- Are there any new delivery protocols?
- Will there be any scheduling for delivery?
- Is the office open, and if not, how will you get a delivery ticket?
- Are you using any new technology, such as mobile apps, to simplify the entire process?
- Will you be doing any customer briefings?
Don’t forget general safety, either. A large crop often translates into longer days and increased logistics. The hectic work schedule can lead to problems with fatigue, loss of concentration and injuries. Even minor injuries from slips, trips, and falls on the farm during harvest sounds minor, but resulting injuries continue to be the leading cause of hospital visits for farmers.
Injury prevention is key. Keeping three points of contact when climbing structures, as well as simple measures to decrease tripping hazards in the workshop and grain storage area, are two easy ways to prevent injury. As hospitals and medical institutions respond to COVID-19, avoiding emergency medical needs is especially important.
“Throughout harvest be respectful of others' safety and remember it’s about everyone’s health, business continuity and community,” Bender said.
Here are some more suggestions on staying healthy on the farm during COVID and some recommendations on having a contingency plan should a key player in your operation get sick.