With farmers and ranchers consistently falling into the list of top ten most dangerous occupations year after year, anything we can do to help our local farmers improve their safety is a worthwhile exercise here at the MD of Foothills Fire Department. To this end, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of useful farm safety tips that you can study and employ to improve the safety quotient for you, your family and any others at your farm or ranch.
Life Safety Tips
First on the list is smoke and/or fire detection devices, both in your living areas and in out buildings as well. They should be properly installed, both inside and outside all sleeping rooms, with at least one per level in your home, and should be maintained regularly and tested monthly. When installed in unoccupied, unheated buildings they should be of the type not susceptible to failure in cold weather and should have an alarm either loud enough to hear from the main house or directly wired to notify an off-site monitoring agency. Other life safety tips to consider include:
- Install fire extinguishers of the proper rating strategically throughout the property, maintain them according to fire code requirements and make sure everyone knows where they are and how to use them.
- Develop a simple fire escape plan and practice it with your family and employees. Agree upon a safe meeting place for everyone to go during an emergency incident where a headcount can be taken. You fire department can help with appropriate planning details.
- Identify anyone such as the elderly or infirm who will require assistance during an emergency such as a fire.
- Ensure that all fire protection equipment is accessible and in good working order. This includes that water sources such as a cistern or pond is kept full and clear for access.
- Ensure all heating equipment is certified and satisfies insurance, fire and building code requirements.
- Water pumps should be on their own dedicated electrical circuits and located away from other buildings.
- Equipment and internal combustion engines should be refueled outdoors, only when cooled off and never while running.
- Crop dryers should have emergency shut-off controls in case they overheat. Avoid using homemade crop drying equipment.
Safe Housekeeping Tips
- Ideally, all buildings should be no-smoking areas, with appropriate signs posted. Designated safe smoking areas should be away from all crops, stores, barns or any flammable or combustible materials. Keep a bucket of water close by.
- Check with your local fire authorities before burning. Burn garbage in an incinerator that has a spark arrestor and avoid burning when winds are strong. No field burning should be done.
- Avoid using fumigants near open flames or ignition sources such as electrical equipment.
- Keep things clean and tidy and remove rubbish, rotting wood and fencing. Allow no combustible storage within ten feet of any building’s exterior.
Crop Storage Safety
- Provide proper ventilation. Dried grains can pose an explosion risk or may spontaneously combust.
- Ensure that crops are dried and properly cured before storing.
- Wet grains must be below the safe moisture content before storing.
- Spontaneous combustion hazards such as manure piles should be inspected regularly.
- Leaky roofs or unprotected storage-area openings should be repaired to prevent stores becoming wet.
- Post fire department phone numbers on all telephones.
- Make sure all electrical equipment is certified by a recognized testing agency, inspected to be code compliant and replaced when worn.
- Use only 15-amp or lower rated fuses, unless specified otherwise.
- Use GFCI devices in any wet areas or remove wiring and lighting from these spaces