If you work in agriculture or perhaps just in a rural area, you might be wondering, “what would happen if you got run over by a combine?” The answer might scare you, but the reality is that combine harvesters are dangerous, potentially deadline machines. You can stay safe by following the combined safety tips below!
What You'll Learn Today
- What is a Combine Accident?
- Combine Safety Tips
- 1. Fire Safety
- 2. Inspect the Combine Before Operating It
- 3. Make Sure All Operators are Properly Trained
- 4. Keep Mirrors Clean and Adjusted
- 5. Let Engine Run Down Before Approaching Rear
- 6. Be Careful on Slopes
- 7. Clear Blockages Wisely
- 8. Keep a Safe Distance from Moving Machinery
- 9. Watch Your Clothes
- Can a Combine Kill Someone?
What is a Combine Accident?
It’s important to follow strict safety guidelines and procedures when working on or near a combine.
Between 1996 and 2000, there were 60 combine-related accidents as reported to the Health and Safety Executive of Mississippi alone. Nearly 20% of these were fatal, with most deaths caused by being run over by the combine.
Other combine accidents include:
- Slips, trips, and falls from the combine
- Accidents related to clearing blockages or working on a combine while it was running
- Being pulled into the cutting mechanism or coming into contact with the knives, reels, or stripper rotors
- Being injured by drive mechanisms when automatic sensors operate
- Coming into contact with the straw chopper or spreader
- Getting entangled with the augers in the grain tank
- Coming into contact with electric power lines
- Noise damage and hearing loss
In addition, a high percentage of deaths occur when operating combines that utilize hydraulic cylinders to hold it up. When the cylinders fail, the combine falls, and whatever is beneath it can be crushed.
Here’s a video with some quick, actionable advice for staying safe when you’re working around a combine:
As you can see, a lot can go wrong when you’re working on or in a combine. Being aware of the risks can help you avoid them.
Combine Safety Tips
Here are a few tips for staying safe while working on a combine.
1. Fire Safety
Combine fires are common – and while most combine operators usually make it out unscathed, it’s important to make sure that you have good fire safety protocols in place.
About 75% of fires start in the engine compartment, with crop residue being a material that’s most often first involved in a grain combine fire. The fires can become severe when fuel lines rupture or when fires burn through hydraulic hoses.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to make it part of your routine to keep the engine compartment and other areas free from crop residue and build-up of oils and grease. Take the time to remove this build-up daily.
Also, make sure each combine is equipped with at least two 10-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguishers. Larger ones are even better if you have the strength to handle them.
If there’s a fire while you’re operating the combine, pull away from the crop and shut the machine down. Do your best to put the fire out, but make sure you’re far away as you do it.
2. Inspect the Combine Before Operating It
Before you start work each day, inspect the combine. Make sure all shields, guards, and bearings are in place and functional. Never remove any shields or guards, either.
3. Make Sure All Operators are Properly Trained
Regardless of whether individuals will be working directly in the combine or nearby, it is important that everyone involved in crop harvesting be trained on best safety practices. They should be trained in all the areas of the machine’s use as well as all related applications.
Only one person should be in the combine at a time. Unless there’s a second seat in the cab, only one person should be inside. Children under the age of 13 should never be allowed inside even if there’s a second seat.
4. Keep Mirrors Clean and Adjusted
Reversing mirrors need to be kept clean and adjusted at all times. This can make rear vision a bit easier – a task that can be a challenge on a bulky machine like a combine.
When reversing, be extra mindful of your surroundings. Sound the horn several times to alert those around you that you are backing up and make sure there are no bystanders before you begin a descent in the combine.
5. Let Engine Run Down Before Approaching Rear
Straw choppers and spreaders are especially hazardous. Make sure you let the engine run down before you approach the back of the combine to limit accidents.
6. Be Careful on Slopes
When operating the combine harvester on a slope, be extra careful. Try to avoid sudden changes in direction and park on flat ground when that is a possibility. These machines are prone to tipping but you can often avoid it just by making these adjustments.
7. Clear Blockages Wisely
Many combined accidents can be connected to improperly clearing blockages.
Never reach into the header with a leg, arm, or another appendage until you use the “safe stop” procedure. You should develop this procedure in conjunction with other employees to make sure they are part of the written employee safety policy.
If you aren’t sure of the best way to clear blockages from your combine, consult your owner’s manual. It will have a detailed guide on how to maintain, prevent, and deal with blockages and other issues with your machine.
Remember, too, that avoiding blockages is almost always going to be easier than learning them. When you’re working with crops you aren’t familiar with or those that are notably fibrous, like linseed, exercise caution. Know that reversing drive mechanisms, when properly fitted, can often wind out blockages.
Of course, you should always avoid overloading the machine beyond its natural capabilities. Be conservative to limit the likelihood of blockages. Remember, you’ll spend more time trying to clear a blockage than you will making a couple of extra passes to get smaller loads.
8. Keep a Safe Distance from Moving Machinery
Be sure to stop the engine before doing any repairs, adjustments, lubricating, checks, or obstruction clearing. You should also stop the engine when leaving the operating platform or cab for any reason.
Never try to troubleshoot problems with moving equipment if there’s the potential for you to become entangled in the machine. Always keep a safe distance from the machine and shut down operations, if possible, before you attempt to make any adjustments. Use chock blocks under the tires to prevent accidental movement when repairs are being made, too.
9. Watch Your Clothes
Finally, one of the most common reasons why machinery accidents occur (both those related to combines and not) is because a user is pulled into a machine when their clothing is caught in a reel.
Therefore, it’s important to wear close-fitting clothing and to be mindful of where your garments are falling while you’re working with a machine.
Can a Combine Kill Someone?
A combine can kill someone. Although this isn’t super common – only about 10 deaths occurred in the four-year study period mentioned above – combines are risky machines that need to be treated with reverence and respect.
To stay safe, minimize distractions while using the harvester, like food and cell phones. Don’t let kids anywhere near the combine harvester, and make sure everyone is properly trained. That includes everyone who will be using the combine harvester as well as those who will be working nearby.
Make sure you know the location of emergency medical services, especially if you’re working in a remote area, as well as how to get in touch with them quickly if an accident does happen. Many dominoes are now equipped with GPS systems to provide precise locations of victims.
With a bit of extra caution, you shouldn’t have to worry about an injury or death related to using a combine.