Episode 92 - Preparing your farm for winter safety - UMN Extension's The Moos Room

Emily and Joe, AKA The Gruesome Twosome, discuss getting your farm ready for winter safety. There are many super important winter safety components that you should be thinking about before winter gets here. Slow down, think twice, be safe.

Emily: Welcome to The Moos Room. Special episode today. It is the gruesome twosome. It is me, Emily and Joe. Today, we are going to be talking about my favorite topic, safety. You often hear me talk about farm safety being more than just a week or just a particular season of farming. No, farm safety is year-round. We really need to think about our farm safety calendar. Where we're at now on our calendar is we're wrapping up harvest. We should be all done with that or just about done.
We're getting ready to clean things up, pack things up for the winter and move into winter. There are some really important safety components associated with winter and especially how you prepare for winter.
Joe: I'm just running through my mind where when I was on farm did I get hurt. A lot of people I think would think, it's got to be cattle related. I got cattle hurt me plenty. I've been kicked in the head. I've had gates swung at me. I've had all sorts of different injuries related to cattle.
Emily: Being kicked in the head explains a lot.
Joe: It sure does, doesn't it? One of the ways that I got hurt the most on farm was just falling down. Just finding spots where the ice is a problem and not knowing it was a problem or trying to rush to get something done and just falling down. That seems to hurt more and more every year. That's one of the things.
Emily: As we get into our old and wise end years.
Joe: That's what comes to mind right now.
Emily: The recovery takes a lot longer.
Joe: Oh, my goodness, yes. That's what I think of right away. Maybe that's on your list. Hopefully, it's on your list.
Emily: It's absolutely on my list. We can start there. You really hit on an important point, Joe. Slips, trips, and falls are a really big cause of workplace injuries on farm. We hear a lot about the big accidents and the fatalities and all of that but day-to-day, these other smaller injuries are happening. We need to be doing what we can to prevent those. Again, a big one of these is slips, trips, and falls.
Joe: A tongue twister.
Emily: Slips, trips, and falls.
Joe: One of the things I think about with that is, and I don't know if I've even said this out loud on this podcast before, but farmers for me are athletes in a way, especially just how much they're moving around, how much they're on their feet and how much they walk. One of the things that can really make life miserable is a nagging injury and something like that. I think back when I played football or when I was in practice, if you jam up a finger tripping and falling or you twist an ankle, there's really not time. I should rephrase it.
There is time to get that better, but I don't know a whole lot of farmers that take that time like they should or have the ability to take that time because of the things that have to happen on a day-to-day basis. When you have that injury and you don't give it time, it just sticks around forever and it's so hard to get rid of and it hurts constantly. I think about that with slips, trips, and falls, even though it can be much more serious.
Emily: Time out. First of all, I cannot wait for you to listen back to that monologue at how humble braggy you were. It was incredible. Loved it.
Joe: I didn't think it was that bad.
Emily: It had two particularly bad parts where I was like okay, Joe. Anyways now--
Joe: Take my humble brag. You just take it.
Emily: Now, I need to think of what my response was going to be to that. Joe, you do make a really good point with that. I think also if you don't do anything to get rid of what caused that injury, you may re-injure yourself. Not only are you dealing with something potentially nagging, but also hurting it again and perhaps making it worse and more debilitating. We're looking at fixing areas that we already know are a problem, but also really mindfully looking for other areas that may be problems so that we can prevent anything from going wrong.
I think of slipping is a really common one and since we're talking about getting ready for winter, think about where water pools up. We had some good rain this fall, and so where did those puddles form? Were they by doorways? Were they in areas that have a lot of foot traffic on them? Think about that. Filling them in can make a really big difference in preventing specifically slips on ice. Even if you do have some deeper pools or divots that have ended up in the yard, think about filling those too. People can easily get tripped up on those.
That's again just a really quick fix you can make. Joe, you had also mentioned farmers just having the time. That's always what we're talking about here, time, time, time. That's the theme of The Moos Room, management and time, went in the same sometimes, but these things again, they're very quick to do. You have a pretty low investment for safety, low time, low money investment just to fill in holes and flatten out some areas.
Joe: We covered slips, trips, and falls, looking at where ice forms. I know there's usually someone with sand walking around trying to get some of the traction going, but what else should I be looking for as specifically related to winter before winter actually happens? What can I be looking to do?
Emily: Another big thing to think about in winter is checking your buildings and checking your buildings for a few things. Chief among them being any structural issues, especially in Minnesota, we get a lot of heavy snowfall and so anything that again is structural that could really put your building under stress if there was a lot of snow. That's one. Another one is checking to make sure there's no holes or leaks because if you are getting drips in there that can freeze and be a slip hazard. It can damage equipment or if it falls on feed or something. Checking for leaks and making sure things are tight is another important one.
Joe: That just reminded me of a building I saw one time. It was a dairy barn and we had had some really high winds over the summer. We started looking at that building a couple of months later right before we were going to start to get snow. It did shift 8 to 10 inches. It was not good. Catching that thing before you get a bunch of snow on top of that building is you have to. That's a safety issue for the people in there and for the cows.
Emily: Absolutely. I do know that over the summer and early fall, we did have a lot of farms that had some pretty significant wind damage. Absolutely, if you haven't checked out all of your buildings, make sure that you're doing that now to avoid any issue in the future. In addition to facilities, there's also equipment. Storing your equipment properly for the winter and also making sure that the equipment you're going to continue using through winter is ready.
Doing just your regular preventative maintenance, changing the fluids, doing all that, checking the electrical, checking the tires, all of those things are really important because as we know, winter is harder on equipment. It's harder on engines, all of that. Making sure that you're ready before you have an issue, the first time you try on a really cold day will really save you a lot of headaches and be better for the longevity of the equipment as well.
Joe: Let's say I have quite a few employees or I have kids around. There's got to be a time for education and specific winter things that I should be sitting down with either my employees or my kids and saying, "Hey, we're going into winter. These are things that are going to come up more often because it's winter." What should I be talking to my kids or my employees about as we head into winter in terms of safety precautions?
Emily: Particularly, with personal safety, being properly dressed, preventing hypothermia or frostbite, telling people something gets wet, go change. That's a really important one, and especially for kids too, and that, hey, if it is a negative 30 wind chill which is not out of the realm of possibility for Minnesota at least, then you can't be outside for longer than a couple minutes. Just be outside to move between buildings, some of those things with personal safety in the cold are really important. Then, of course, warning them, look out for spots that are slippery or icy. If you see one, let somebody know so that we can put sand or gravel on it or something to alleviate the issue. Then I think too, this is important for all employees, kids, and anybody who's on your farm and especially actively involved in your farm, letting them know what you've done for winter prep so that they can know what you're doing. That will give them some buy-in that, if they noticed perhaps something you missed, they'll tell you.
You can even ask them like, "Hey, if you notice something that looks off, let me know." Creating that really positive feedback loop is a really great way to promote a culture of safety. You want everybody involved in safety on your farm. Also, saying perhaps after a big storm, lots of wind, or heavy snowfall, having your employees help you walk around the farm and check the buildings and make sure everything looks okay because that will save you time, which we know is important time again coming up, and that additional buy-in from employees. Like I already said, that's a really important part of it as well.
Joe: I don't know how I haven't asked you this question yet, but one of the things that we talk about, and for whatever reason, it comes up with lameness all the time where you're saying, lameness, it's everyone's job to notice lame cows write them down, tell someone what's going on but when we assign it to everybody, sometimes nothing happens.
Emily: No one does it.
Joe: Right. Should you be appointing someone as the safety officer for the farm or someone like, "You're in charge of doing this high-level safety stuff and making sure that it gets taken care of"? Or is that too much pressure on one person?
Emily: I don't think it's too much pressure on one person and I really find that on most farms, there is somebody who is the defacto of that position anyways. There is usually somebody who is worried about safety and would probably happily take on that task to do that. Two, if it is something where one day, they need a little extra time because they're walking around or looking at something, can you re-delegate some of their tasks for the day to some other people? I think, yes, it's really important to have one or two people that are really dedicated to that because you're so right, Joe.
I have said it for my entire extension career and even prior, if it's everyone's job, it's no one's job. I think that that's a really important point to raise that, yes, absolutely. Safety is everyone's job and I do firmly believe that, but I also am a realist and know that that's not always going to be the case. If you do have, again one person, maybe two, that you have identified and talked to about handling safety and looking out for hazards and doing safety education and that kind of thing, I see that having a lot of positive impact.
Joe: There was two things that I thought of, and I think this is everybody in the winter. Minnesota and we probably don't have to say it but we should say it. You should have emergency stuff in your vehicle in the winter, just in general. If, for whatever reason, you're stuck moving car without heat for a little bit, you know what's up. You always have a hat and gloves with you, a jacket, maybe a blanket or a sleeping bag, shovel, those kind of things in your car, a little bit of food. That to me is just Minnesota. You should start getting that stuff ready in general whether you're a farmer or not.
Emily: Yes, absolutely, and even having some of those items in the tractor too. Tractors, we use them year-round and I can think on my farm a lot of cold winter nights where my dad got stuck or the engine choked out or something because of the cold. I think having some of those items in your tractor as well, especially a blanket, making sure that your cell phone is fully charged, and wearing it close to your body so it doesn't get too cold. Just some of those things like that too, because if you're not prepared, it's going to happen, and if you are prepared, it won't.
Joe: Our listeners are probably sick of hearing it, but I don't think we can not mention it. Winter, I bundled up, I've got a lot of extra loose clothing on, it's time to talk about PTOs.
Emily: Oh, it's always time to talk about PTOs and I just think of scarves, especially kids in scarves, mittens that are too big, or maybe they have the little mitten clips. That is just an entanglement hazard not just for PTOs but for anything with a rotating point or a pinch point on your farm. As we all know, kids will find them. You might not know they're there, but the kids will find them. Making sure that things fit properly especially when thinking about hats and scarves, I already mentioned, but a lot of people now wear the gators or the buffs, and those work really well because there's no loose ends.
It goes just around your face, and your neck. Like I said, especially wearing gloves or mittens that are too big because, with that, if they do get caught, you might not know right away because it's not crushing your fingers yet. We know that less than a second is all the time you need for something really bad to happen. I think that that is an important thing to keep in mind as well.
Joe: One of the worst sunburns I've ever had was actually in February. It just happened to be a little bit warmer of a day. It was like 38�, 40� but we spent all day 12 hours working cattle in the sun and I didn't think about it at all. At the end of the day, my ears were blistering, my nose was blistering and I was miserable. Maybe something to think about as well.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. One of my worst sunburns was also in the winter. I took a trip to Colorado in high school and the day we went skiing, I came back and my forehead and my cheeks, and my nose just burnt. Oh, man, it was bad. I get it and yes, that's a really important point, Joe. UV rays still come through in the winter. Even if it's cloudy, they're still coming through in the winter. Making sure that if you are going to be outside all day, and especially if you aren't overly bundled up, particularly your entire face is exposed, make sure you're wearing sunscreen on your face, on your ears.
As Joe mentioned, most people forget that spot. Your neck. Put some SPF, Chapstick on your lips. All of those things. It will save you a world of hurt.
Joe: Any other things that you can think about going into winter that we need to be worried about?
Emily: Everything. Just be worried about everything all the time. That is the key to safety.
Joe: That's safety.
Emily: That's how I do my job. I just worry about everything all the time.
Joe: It's very constant.
Emily: That's what makes me so good. I always say to people, slow down, think twice, be safe. That is my year-round farm safety advice.
Joe: Perfect. Let's wrap it there. We'll call it that. We'll be giving everybody plenty to think about. Comments, questions, scathing rebuttals, go to themoosroom@umn.edu.
Emily: That's T-H-E-M-O-O-S-R-O-O-M@umn.edu
Joe: We're on Twitter @UMNmoosroom and @UMNFarmSafety. We'll catch you guys next week. Thank you for listening.
Emily: Bye-bye. Even like when I host an episode, you still end up being host by the end of it anyways because-
Joe: I know that's my fault.
Emily: -you just can't help yourself.
Joe: I can't help it. I got so many things I want to ask.
Emily: I know, I know.
Joe: I'm excited.


Episode 92 - Preparing your farm for winter safety - UMN Extension's The Moos Room
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