Everyone in agriculture knows of someone who has been killed while operating farm machinery or operating an ATV. While a fatal accident is always tragic, it’s doubly heart-wrenching when it happens to a family member.
According to Jim Larson, Montana ag safety program trainer who was conducting a safety workshop at the Montana Farm Bureau Convention in Missoula, 573 people were killed on ATVs in the U.S. in 2014, and 2015 statistics are fast catching up to those sobering figures. “A four wheeler was made for off-road recreation with the driver easily navigating trails wearing a helmet, gloves, boots, and other safety gear,” Larson says. “However, on the farm or ranch we’ve added things onto the machine like tool boxes, fencing supplies, shovels, sprayers, and extra riders. That changes the balance. Take into account that the tires on ATVs aren’t meant for paved roads, and if you ride them fast on paved roads, you are asking for trouble.”
Larson explains an additional risk the terrain where farmers and ranchers ride four wheelers. Often it’s treacherous. “A horse will see a ditch; an ATV won’t. While you are concentrating on your cows, a horse will watch where he’s going; if you’re chasing cows on an ATV, you’re looking at the cows and not the terrain. This is when accidents happen.
Larson and safety trainer Les Graham agree that two factors contribute to ATV deaths: Speed and not knowing where you’re going.
“If you have a bunch of folks showing up to help move cows, drive them around in the truck so they are least know the route and the terrain,” Larson advises.
Larson and Graham have developed a “Farm Safety Intervention for Farms and Ranches” plan. A lot of the advice includes how to keep kids safe. “You need to evaluate and survey your property and look at potential hazards. Identify ideas of concern such as overhead power lines, ditches, equipment, corrals, pens, ponds. Learn how to safely approach workers on equipment,” says Larson. “Take the time to tour your ranch with the family and employees every six months, and take hazards into account. Set up procedures for being around equipment and train family members on the “how to do” when in work areas. Continually survey your work area for things that could create safety hazards and take action to change them when you see them.”
There are financial benefits as well. Having safety training on your farm or ranch can save you up to four percent off your workers’ compensation premium payment.
“Always ask yourself what you can do to keep your family, kids and workers safe,” cautions Larson. “We are seeing a lot of insurance companies that won’t pay for ATV accidents. Do safety training and make sure you have something in writing in your workers’ comp file. As the saying goes, ‘Think Safety, Act Safely,’” concludes Larson.