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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 18, 2008

Caution urged for farmers making repairs under equipment

A University of Iowa farm safety expert warns that farmers should take precautions to avoid the tragic consequences that can result when making repairs to heavy equipment.

A recent news story about an Iowan pinned under a rotary cutter, caught the attention of Murray Madsen, associate director for the UI Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) and trauma investigator for the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program (IA FACE).

"It's time again to be reminded of the precautions of summer to be carried forward and practiced this fall, even in the rush of harvest," Madsen said. "Working under a raised rotary cutter held up by hydraulics or poor blocking is a hazard similar to working under a raised combine header without the cylinder locks in place.

"Farmers tempted to make quick repairs, relying on hydraulics of feeble supports with limited attention to proper blocking, are ignoring precautions intended to help save their lives. Proper lockouts and blocking are necessary in the shop, in the field, and on the road in between."

For proper blocking, experts recommend:

--Before initiating repairs, read the manufacturer's manual for recommended safety precautions and procedures to be followed.

--Never rely on only hydraulics.

--When provided, always use the manufacturer's safety device or features for securing equipment or components.

--Prepare the area to make sure the jackstand or blocks are secure. If the ground support is questionable, use bearing plates to increase the contact area with the ground.

--Never use a block that shows signs of rot, splits or bows or is significantly lighter that other blocking being used.

--Observe blocking and jackstands during loading to make sure they remain solid.

The warning to farmers to avoid situations in which they may become pinned or trapped under various types of falling equipment comes in the wake of several incidents that resulted in media reports.

The GPCAH began collecting press clippings in 2002 to augment its understanding of agriculture-related accidents. Press clippings help researchers track, categorize and better understand the circumstances surrounding deaths and nonfatal injuries in production agriculture, Madsen said.

Since 2003, there have been 19 cases described in Iowa press clippings captured in the GPCAH's database, and nine of those reported incidents occurred in the last year and a half.

These incidents involved whole machines that drooped, dropped or fell from props or stands, wings of folded equipment such as disks or cultivators, combine heads, lift arms of skid steers, and raised boxes of wagons and trucks.

"Media reports underscore the need for greater attention to the hazard, but with the necessary precautions, tragic incidents involving falling loads can be avoided," Madsen said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Hannah Fletcher, UI College of Public Health, 319-384-4277,; Murray Madsen, Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, 319-335-4481