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Release: May 11, 2000

I-CASH urges safety during the spring planting season

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Spring planting season is here and farmers are putting in long hours to get crops planted. In order to have a safe and successful planting season, specialists at Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) encourage farmers to be aware of safety issues related to spring field work.

Before planting begins, farmers should make sure that their equipment is running smoothly. Simple maintenance not only keeps equipment in good condition and extends its working life, but also will prevent serious injuries to equipment operators. Make sure that gauges, hoses and connectors are repaired or replaced. Mark tractors and other equipment with Slow Moving Vehicle signs. Check tires for proper pressure and good condition and ensure that all hydraulic connections are in safe working condition.

Farmers who will apply anhydrous ammonia or other agricultural chemicals to their crops should practice chemical safety measures and wear the proper safety equipment, including ventless goggles, rubber gloves and a long-sleeved shirt whenever handling ammonia or other agricultural chemicals. Practicing safe handling and use of chemical fertilizers is important in preventing both chronic and acute exposures.

"Chronic exposure to agricultural chemicals is actually more common among farmers than acute exposures," explained LaMar Grafft, rural health and safety specialist at I-CASH. "Flu-like symptoms result from chronic exposures and farmers should be monitored for the health effects of these exposures."

Anhydrous ammonia is a hydroscopic compound that will cause severe burns if it touches exposed skin or the eyes, or is inhaled into the lungs and respiratory system. Injuries received in accidents with anhydrous ammonia are very serious and can be disabling or fatal. Careful safety and injury prevention practices used in handling the chemical can help ensure successful and safe application to the fields and help maintain the health of the farmer over many planting seasons.

Environmental factors should also be considered as farmers move through planting season. Dust affects farmers who are working on dry fields or windy days. Tractors with enclosed cabs can improve this situation dramatically. For farmers working without a tractor cab, a particulate respirator is a good way to protect the lungs and nasal passages from dust.

The temperature is another environmental factor to be considered. On a very hot or humid day, farmers working in the field should frequently stop for water breaks and rest. Breaks and drinking water help farmers stay alert and mindful of safety hazards as they work through the day.

Human factors such as stress and fatigue also play an important role in planting season and safety practices. Stress can be managed by eating regularly, talking to family members and getting regular sleep.

"During planting season, farmers should make sure that they are eating regularly, taking adequate rest and water breaks, and getting off the tractor to stretch and move around before returning to planting," said Grafft. "Farmers should pay attention to their level of tiredness and get adequate sleep, nutrition and rest to have a safe planting season."

For more information on planting and safety issues, call I-CASH at (319)-335-4438.

Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) is a consortium including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The consortium represents and helps maintain a statewide network of public and private agricultural health and safety organizations. Located on the UI Oakdale Research Campus, I-CASH's key objective is to reduce illness and injuries among Iowa's agricultural population.