Farm Safety: Everything you need to Know about Being Safe on a Farm

Planning a class or family trip to the farm?

Got stuck behind a tractor on the road and wasn’t sure what to do?

Farm safety is important for everyone even if you do not live or work on a farm or ranch!

Farms, like many workplaces, have many potential hazards. There are several of things visitors to farms and ranches need to be aware of.

Upon your arrival for a trip to the farm, the farmer or tour guide will generally give your group a brief overview on what to be aware of in terms of safety and if there is anything you are unsure of, ALWAYS ASK, safety is always their number one priority!

Safety Topics:

Animals:

Fences are in place for a reason, for both the animal’s safety and for yours!

How should we behave while watching animals from outside of the fence?

Use calm and low voices and make subtle movements so the animals do not get startled. Do not tease the animals with food or anything else or put hands or arms through the fence. If the fence is wire or tape, always assume it is electric unless told otherwise.

If animals are running or moving around a lot or being unusually noisy, be sure to keep a considerable distance. If you notice animals showing signs of agitation or aggression put as much distance and a fence between you and the animal as possible. Body language cues saying “leave me alone” can include snorting, pawing or stomping the ground, arching backs, growling/hissing, pinned ears, or even barred teeth.

Approaching animals safely:

If you have the opportunity to interact with or pet the farm animals, there is a right and wrong way to do so. Most livestock animals either have a fight orflight response when they are startled upon approach by a person. If they choose to fight (kick, buck, rear, head-butt) you could get injured, if the choose flight (run away) they might really hurt someone else or themselves. Approaching an animal in the correct way from the correct direction is a simple way to prevent either of those from happening. It is important to know where different animal’s blind spots are to avoid startling or sneaking up on the animal. It is important that the animals sees you while you are calmly and gently approaching.

How do I approach an animal once I have received permission?

  • Approach calmly and slowly
  • Speak quietly with a hand outstretched
  • Give the animal the opportunity to smell your hand and approach you from a few steps away
  • Do not approach animals known for being territorial or protective such as new mothers or intact males
  • Only pet or touch the designated areas (not around the eyes, ears, nostrils or hind end)
  • ALWAYS ask permission of the owner before approaching or petting any animal

Equipment and Machinery:

As a general rule, don’t touch any of the operating mechanisms of equipment unless being instructed and supervised by a professional. If the machine is making noise, stay a good amount distance from it and keep your eyes on it in case it starts moving. When equipment is operating, objects may be thrown.

Farmers and operators are experts on how to be safe with equipment to make sure no one gets hurt! Always listen to their guidance and direction.

Equipment and Road Safety:

An infographic about sharing the road with farm vehicles
Image 2: (Farm Bureau Financial Services)

Farmers use public roads when they need to transport a piece of equipment from one location to another.

These vehicles are required to be marked with a Slow Moving Vehicle  (SMV) sign indicating they will not be able to travel more than 20 miles per hour. When driving up behind one of these vehicles it is extremely important not only to their safety but to yours as well to SLOW DOWN and wait for a safe and legal time to pass. If the road is windy or too narrow to pass, be aware that the farmer will take the first safe opportunity to pull over to the side to allow for all following vehicles to go on their way.

How do I safely pass a slow moving piece of farm equipment on the road?

When passing a slow moving farm vehicle, in addition to allowing ample time, also add more space than you think you would need while moving in front of it. Farm machines are large and wide and may be wider or longer than you anticipate. Pass slow and leave lots of space. Remember, a few minutes saved is never worth a life, be patient and honor the contribution these equipment operators are doing for our society.

General Keys to Safety Success:

Looking eyes and listening ears– There are lots of noises to be aware of on a farm or ranch. Noises come from animals, machinery, and workers. Being attentive and listening to anything that may indicate an unsafe situation (loose animals, rolling machine, etc.) will help ensure maximum safety for the entire group.

Proper footwear– Whenever visiting a farm or ranch it is always a good idea to wear close toed shoes that are water proof, protective (leather or similar product) and are able to get dirty or muddy.

Proper clothing– To ensure maximum safety, minimize the amount of loose clothes (scarves, belts, jewelry, etc.) that could get caught or hung up on something while on your visit. If it is sunny, always wear sunscreen and/or a hat and if it is wintertime, dressing warmly and in waterproof clothing will help you to be comfortable, safe, and have the best possible time you have.

 For more in-depth information as well as matching games and activities regarding farm safety, visit Farmsafetyjustforkids.org or Farmsafety4kids.net