Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Safety is always paramount...

Posted 8/20/19 (Tue)

Here in the office, we’ve been talking about farms and the fact that farming is a dangerous occupation.

Some people refuse to believe that because farms are tranquility, they’re quiet and you are your own boss.

Truth is, farming can be as dangerous as OSHA describes it, but if everyone is completely aware of their surroundings, a lot of accidents can be avoided.

We’ve all done it. We all get busy and try to make things happen faster than they are supposed to happen. The other caution is with fatigue. When we get really tired, we tend to get sloppy and unfortunate events can take place.

When I was a kid, I knew this guy my dad’s age who had a hook for a right arm. Back in the early ‘50s, he got his arm caught in a baler trying to unplug it and lost his hand and part of his arm.

When he would come over to visit, it was as if he was proud of his “battle scar.”

But that was a different generation and more people were involved in those types of accidents and injuries than they are today.

With harvest upon us, it’s important to keep in mind there are PTOs running augers and balers and combines tend to get plugged in low spots. Then, there are hills.

I’ll never forget June 2003. It was Hazelton’s Centennial celebration and everybody was making plans for a big parade, all-class reunion and all the things that people enjoy at small-town festivals.

But then we got word that farmer Duane Kiefer was killed in a farming accident west of town near the Missouri River.

Duane farmed in some hilly country and he was swathing hay on an incline with machinery that just had an individual back wheel.

The incline became too great for the swather to stay on course. It tipped on its side and rolled down an embankment of about 30 feet, taking Duane with it and killing him in the process. It put a huge damper on the festivities because everyone knew him and most everyone liked him.

This is theoretical, but consider the height of cereal grain harvest. People are moving a lot of grain and often times elevators fill up to capacity before rail cars can get there to move it to market.

When that happens, they start piling grain on the ground.

So consider this. An employee is using a shovel to clean out of the nearly empty truck box after the hoist is raised and all the grain that is left is in the corners.

The employee shovels one side of the box and as he does that, he sees more trucks getting in line. So, in order to speed things up, instead of going around the auger or the truck, he leaps over the PTO to the other side to empty the box.

Yes, it’s theoretical, but one wrong move during that scenario (he didn’t jump high enough, had frayed trousers or even a loose shoe lace) and that employee’s leg is gone.

We don’t need safety courses, at least I don’t think we need safety courses. We just need to think of the possibilities if we are not careful and take the time to do it right and proper.

It doesn’t matter how many trucks are lined up to dump their barley on the football field. There’s no doubt those farmers would rather wait it out than see trauma like a leg getting snapped like a twig.

Enter ranchers and dairy farmers.

In most cases cattle are docile animals and have no intention of harming the person who feeds them.

Sometimes, however, they can get aggressive, especially Holsteins. They’ve been known to ram farmers up against gates, barns and fences.

Most encounters with cattle cause minimal damage with the first thing coming to mind is a cow stepping on the farmer’s or rancher’s foot.

Again, it’s an awareness thing. As long as we are cognizant of our surroundings, we should be good to go.

Unfortunately, some people believe they are 10 feet tall and bullet proof and absolutely refuse to believe that a combine or swather can hurt them.

They can! They’re machines with a lot more torque than the human body is capable of resisting.

That’s why Walter Kiefer lost his arm so many years ago and it was his son Duane who lost his life in that swather accident.

Both Walter and Duane were good people and well liked and respected in the community. They just had a sense about them to speed things up and when that happens mathematical odds do catch up to you.