DFB’s safety conference returns after 2020’s hiatus
DOVER, Del. — The Delaware Farm Bureau held its fourth annual Ag Safety Conference on March 17, via Zoom, after canceling the 2020 conference due to the pandemic.
Ag Safety Conference chairwoman June Unruh said the Promotion and Education Committee was pleased to be able bring the conference back to benefit farmers and consumers.
“I think it’s very crucial that we keep up with this. Somebody has to. We have to look after each other,” she said.
Delaware Ag Secretary Michael Scuse agreed. “We have to keep emphasizing farm safety,” he said. “I don’t think we can do it enough.”
Matt Ludwig of Nationwide’s Health and Safety Department presented a safety training session, “Working Safely in Grain.”
There were 67 incidents of injury or death in ag confined spaces in 2019, up nearly 10 percent from 2018, Ludwig said. Thirty-eight of those were grain entrapments; 60 percent were fatal.
He added a lot of nonfatal claims are not reported and thus not included in that data.
Ludwig included news video of a grain bin rescue in which rescuers described how they use panels to create a circle around a victim, then remove grain from inside the circle to be able to extract the victim.
Grain is like quicksand. If you start sinking, you have less than 5 seconds to react before the grain reaches your knees and you are trapped. At chest level, you’ll be unable to inhale. After 22 seconds, you could be completely covered in grain.
Nationwide has a program in which individuals can nominate a fire department to receive a free grain rescue tube and training. Five fire companies in Delaware have the equipment.
Ludwig described two dangerous situations: grain bridging, which occurs when wet and moldy grain crusts over the top with a cavity beneath, and grain wall, caused by wet grain clinging to the wall.
“Never work with grain above your head,” he warned.
Written procedures are required for entering a grain bin unless the employer or his/her representative is present. A “tag out/lock out” system prevents another person from turning on equipment while someone is in the bin. Each lock has only one key, and the worker in the bin should have that key. An observer, trained in rescue procedures, must remain outside and maintain communication.
“If these procedures are followed, almost all these fatalities can be prevented,” Ludwig said. Ludwig’s presentation was recorded and will be made available through Delaware Farm Bureau.
Kevin Dinsmore, corporate service and solutions manager at Atlantic Tractor in Clayton discussed the “right to repair” farm equipment and safety issues involved. A bill regarding right to repair was recently introduced in Delaware.
“There’s a difference between access to diagnostic repair information and the ability to repair something and access to embedded code,” Dinsmore said. The latter increases the possibility of a problem if one is able to revise codes and modify a control system.
He said he understands that producers want to reduce downtime and to be able to quickly diagnose and repair equipment. John Deere has a website dedicated to repairs: deere.com/Repair.
Using a shared screen, Dinsmore demonstrated what the website offers, including manuals available to view online or order in printed versions or CD. Parts can be searched by serial number, model or equipment type. Some parts can be ordered online; others are available through dealers. The site offers DIY maintenance videos, training and reference guides. There’s a customer service advisor subscription available.
At www.deere.com/en/stellarsupport/ an owner can get onscreen help right from the tractor, beyond what is in the operator’s manual, Dinsmore said.
A dealer is also able to call into a display and talk to the operator, to help set it up for optimal performance in the field. Owners also can dial into a machine to help employees with issues.
For recalls — “We call them ‘product improvement programs,’” Dinsmore said — you can enter a serial number to see if one has been issued.
In answer to a question about the proposed legislation, Dinsmore said, “We absolutely support the customer’s right to repair and the need to better inform customers of tools available. For John Deere, everything that is available to an authorized dealer is available to the customer except the ability to reprogram software. That’s needed in less than 2 percent of all repairs. The reason not to allow reprogramming is very serious safety concerns.”
Modifications do occur, he said. Some of these affect emissions controls in order to get more horsepower. Machines that are modified and then resold may create problems in the used equipment market. New owners, for example, may face loss of warranty.
Richard Wilkins, Delaware Farm Bureau president, asked whether other equipment manufacturers offered similar information.
George Whitaker of the public affairs department at CNH, said, “John Deere has set a high standard for other companies in terms of making this information available in a highly integrated way. We aspire to do the same. New Holland and Case IH get to the same place in terms of information we currently offer our customers; however, we are not there yet in terms of the highly integrated system that Deere offers.”
Wilkins stressed to conference participants that when there are guards on equipment they are there for a reason.
“Protocols that are built into an operating system are there for reason.,” he said. “It’s wonderful the way we can be preventative and assure harm and injuries are minimized as much as possible.”
Dr. Kerry Richards, pesticide educator at University of Delaware Extension, reminded listeners that “pesticide” is defined as any chemical that will control by killing, inhibiting, attracting or repelling plants, insects or microorganisms. All pesticides except a limited number with minimum risk are registered by the EPA and must also be registered in the state where it is being used.
“The label is the law,” Richards said, noting that labels do change as products go through periodic re-registration, as laws change or concerns regarding applicator or public health, environmental or off-target damage arise. A new law that requires, as of 2020, a closed system transfer of small quantities does not apply to product purchased before 2019, which would not state that on the label.
Richards stressed “organic” does not mean a pesticide is less toxic or safer for the applicator. “Weed Pharm,” for example, has 20% acetic acid (equivalent to industrial grade vinegar) and can burn eyes or one’s esophagus or respiratory system.
Many products contain the same active ingredient, which must be listed by individual percentage. However, different brands have different inert ingredients, which do not have to be listed since they may be trade secrets. Some of the inert ingredients may be toxic.
Richards admitted she herself had carelessly on one occasion moved products without protective clothing and, because of a necklace she was wearing, had suffered the consequences with skin irritation.
“If you do nothing else, wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Wash your gloved hands before removing the gloves. Wash your hands before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco or using the toilet. You can reduce potential exposure by 90%. And don’t wear those clothes home and hug your kids before changing.”
She provided the phone number of the National Poison Center, 800-222-1222, which will direct callers to the nearest local center. The product label may contain the manufacturer’s phone number, she added.
Richards suggested Delaware farmers can avail themselves of a free “Environmental Sweep” to dispose of up to 500 pounds or 50 gallons of unwanted, outdated or canceled pesticides, even containers with unknown contents due to lost labels. Not all states do this, she said, and residential pesticides are not included. Start by filling out an “ESP Inventory Form” available online.
Contact Jimmy Hughes at the Delaware Department of Agriculture Pesticide Section, telephone 302-698-4569 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.