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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

Farm Safety Involves Proper Dress and Vigilance

LAS CRUCES -- Because of summer's longer days, New Mexico's commercial growers and weekend farmers are spending more time in their fields and orchards. An increased use of heavy equipment also increases the risk of accidents for farm families, said a farm safety coordinator at New Mexico State University.

Kids often learn how to operate tractors at an early age, and adults need to emphasize safety before placing a child in the driver's seat, said Craig Runyan of NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

"Take the time as a supervisor or parent to advise children of what the safety precautions are on a particular machine or piece of equipment they're operating," Runyan said. "If they're not told, they have no other way of learning except perhaps by mistake."

Accidents can happen to people of any age, and Runyan advised more mature farmers also to take precautions.

"They need to realize that, as they get older, their reflexes and response times start to slow down a little bit," he said. "They have to take a little extra time or take a few more precautions and be sure that their physical and mental conditions allow them to respond to potentially dangerous situations."

The number one hazard on the farm is tractor rollover, Runyan said. Uneven or hilly terrain can quickly throw a driver from a tractor and sometimes under its wheels.

"Pay attention to where your tires are going and the slope of the terrain," he said. "Be sure that your tractor is equipped with some sort of rollover protection structure (ROPS) and wear a seat belt only if the tractor has rollover protection. A seatbelt can actually be a hazard on a tractor without a ROPS because the driver needs to be free to get away from a rolling tractor to avoid getting crushed."

Even tractor drivers need to "dress for success." However, they shouldn't dress for fashion.

"You should always wear fairly tight-fitting clothes," Runyan said. "A long-sleeve shirt with snaps is safer than other shirts because the snaps pull apart to free you if the shirt gets snagged in a piece of equipment."

Runyan also recommended wearing a hat to block the sun and improve vision. For higher elevations, he advised wearing jackets zipped up or not at all.

"In the morning in the mountains, for example, a lot of people wear a jacket until it warms up," he said. "Be sure to zip up that jacket when you wear it so that rotating or reciprocating equipment doesn't grab loose clothing."

Heavy equipment operators with long hair should tie it back to avoid getting it snagged, and jewelry is best left at home to avoid electrical shock or other accidents, Runyan added.