Stefanie Croley 2014-03-11 04:12:50
MAKING SAFETY A YEARROUND PRIORITY “Most sunflower growers know during harvest it’s not if they will have a combine fire, but when.” This is the first sentence of an article I recently came across about a team of agricultural engineers from South Dakota State University (SDSU) who are developing a system to prevent combine fires – a widespread problem amongst sunflower producers. That first line was enough to capture my attention. Dan Humburg, a professor at SDSU who led the agricultural engineering research team, noted in the article that harvesting sunflowers requires continuous attention and some producers won’t grow sunflowers at all because of the risks involved. It was discovered during the study that sunflower debris ignites at temperatures that are from 20 C to 30 C (68 F to 86 F) lower than corn or soybean residue, so the odds of a combine bursting into flames while harvesting sunflowers are high – too high, in my opinion. The article goes on to describe the prototype system that Humburg and his team are developing. The system uses a fan to pull clean outside air (containing no dust) through a filter. It was tested in the 2012 and 2013 harvest seasons, and producers have seen great results, according to the article. The national Sunflower association became involved in 2013, and prototypes have now been tested in three operations. Currently, the research team is looking at testing the device on other crops – including soybeans – that create a heightened fire hazard for producers. We’ll keep an eye out to see if this system crosses the border anytime soon. In the meantime, it’s another step in the right direction toward decreasing the rates of agricultural accidents and deaths. According to the Canadian agricultural Safety association (CaSa)’s most recent stats, 70 per cent of agricultural fatalities from 1990 through 2008 were machinerelated. But overall, Canada’s rate of agricultural fatalities declined by 38 per cent from 1990 through 2008 – an encouraging statistic. March is a good month to be reminded of farm safety issues: besides celebrating Canadian agricultural Safety Week from March 9 to 15, it tends to be a slower time of year before planting season begins. When our schedules fill up, it’s easy to put things like safety on the backburner and focus on what’s happening in the present. But one week in March dedicated to talking about safety is not sufficient. Accidents can happen year-round, and farm safety and accident prevention need to be top of mind no matter how busy you are. We’ve highlighted a few safety issues and best practices in this edition. On-farm grain bin storage is on the rise, and with that comes the need for a reminder on proper grain bin storage and monitoring. Check out Grain bin game plan on page 30 for tips from the experts. And although we hope you don’t ever have to use it, a business safety plan is a great way to ensure you, your employees and your business are covered in case of an accident. Paul Vaillancourt has more details on forming a plan fit for your operation on page 38 (and you can visit CaSa’s website at www.casa-acsa.ca for more information and ways to get your employees and family involved in farm safety). But the conversation shouldn’t stop here. Have you ever had a gut feeling that something was about to go wrong? In the case of sunflower producers dealing with combine fires, Humburg (the agricultural engineer) says a grower in South Dakota could tell when a fire was imminent because of the odour coming from the combine. That’s what I call sensing a problem before it arises. Keep safety in mind and trust your instincts so you’ll be able to do the same.
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