It seems we have had too many injuries in too short a period. If it is I getting hurt, it is usually scrapes, sprains, strains, cuts, superficial concussions and the like. However, staff is turning up with bruised knees, cuts, scrapes and various small injuries. We decided that it was time to have another chat about safety. We sat everybody down first thing in the morning and went over safety protocols, procedures and policies.
Staff training on farm equipment, situational and personal safety are areas we cover. When using motorized equipment on the farm, staff is trained specifically on that piece of equipment and all of the potential dangers. It is rare but the ones that are trained have proven to be good decision makers and cautious people. Then they have to pass safety tests on whatever object they are using. If it is the mower, the ATV or the tractor, training takes longer and every safety feature is covered. In order to use the mower, you must be able to tell me the degree or angle of slope that will tip the mower over. Without the right tools I could not tell you if the angle or slope is past the fifteen degrees, but from driving it, I can tell you it is safe. I have popped wheelies on the slopes and dumber stuff with the mower but the staff was not shown those.
I will make sure that they look where they drive. It sounds simple but so far, all of them have backed up without looking. I cover small things like never mow with the outlet pointed towards buildings, people or solid objects. The last thing I tell them, every time they get on or use a device, is that THEY are responsible for everyone’s safety. THEY have to be aware of 360 degrees of space and who, if any, are in their circle.
We have always told the staff that if someone gets hurt what we are doing here does not matter. It is not worth someone getting hurt. We can be as ecologically sensitive, use all best practices, be as profitable as we can imagine but if someone gets hurt, it is just not worth it. We make a point of making everyone look out for everyone else. It is not a new concept but I remind them safety is the most important aspect of being on the property.
I lead by example, I hate suntan lotion but one of the causes of death on farms is from melanoma. We have some folks like me, but we go through the ritual every morning. Everyone sprays sun tan lotion on before heading out. I am the first one so that they see I am not exempt. We had the day’s task list made up and I sent everyone out into the field. I wanted to clear Tree of Heavens on the side of the driveway, so I went for the chainsaw. It does not matter to me how skilled our staff is I am the only one allowed to use the chain saw. Because we just had the safety talk, I decided to suit up in chain saw chaps, ear, and eye and head protection along with steel-toed shoes. I went to the front of the house and started cutting scrub trees and clearing the left side of the driveway. I have used a chain saw for over twenty years. I have never come close to an accident with the chain saw. Trees falling, well that is a different story. That one tool has my complete and total respect. I sharpen my own chains so the saw does the work; I just guide it, keep it from hitting the ground or having the chain kicking back towards me.
Two weekends ago, I broke the chain saw out and went into the causeway to clear downed trees and big brush. It took about two hours. I always wear eye and hearing protection I do not always wear chaps. I am extremely careful when handling a saw and that extends to anyone with me. They can stand a good two hundred feet away and that depends on what is being cut up or cut down.
Part of chain saw safety entails sure footing, knowing your path to get out of harms way, and not to have other bodies around. You do not need someone in front of you as you are carrying a chain saw or just merely sprinting for your life. Their true job is to observe and be the emergency communications if needed.
I was up front just getting started. I went through a few scrub trees, brought them down and moved further down the driveway. I had some branches that would hit cars so I wanted to cut them off the tree. Once I got them all, I brought the spinning chain, from the top of my right shoulder, across my body, down and onto my left leg above the kneecap. I immediately felt the tug and looked down with stunned disbelief, to see the chain cut through the chaps and was hung up on the fiber, as designed. I would have cut my leg badly had I not been wearing the chaps. I stopped to contemplate the amputation of my leg and the sheer stupidity of my action. I still cannot believe that I did that.
I was awake and attentive now, I obviously was not before. I continued with a more cautious approach, as I worked into the brush cutting the bigger Tree of Heavens. Tree of Heaven's are an invasive species. They were brought to
I was dealing with small to medium size stalks and came across one that was a foot thick. I was in the thick of brushes when I cut it down and it fell on top of me. I was able to hold it, but I could not get it off me. I had to get down on my hands and knees and slowly make my way out of the brush and to the driveway. Here I am, dressed in orange with an orange chainsaw crawling through the thicket to the clearing. At the same time, some customers had stopped and were walking towards me. I am on my knees coming out of thick brush chainsaw first then me. I moved the chainsaw forward then I moved forward until I got to the driveway and could stand up. I figured God had given me enough signs, so I stopped to take care of the couple instead of sending them up to my wife.
Times like this cement my true belief system. God looks out for children and fools. I am clearly a life member of the latter. The more I learn the more I understand how much more I need to learn. Let me leave it at this, safety, safety, safety. You can never have enough.
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