Archive for Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Opinion: Safety trumps fashion

June 7, 2011

What’s today’s fashionable farmer wearing to work?

If you guessed any of the high fashions featured in “GQ,” “Esquire” or any other men’s magazine, guess again.

Looking good is great when you go to town but safety and comfort are more important when dressing for farm chores. And while farmers and ranchers may not give the notion of dressing for safety a second thought, doing so may prevent accidents that can lead to a long and healthy life living and working on the land.

Let’s begin with the head. After all, that’s where thinking about safety should start.

Head injuries are common on the farm and tend to be serious. When doing work that may involve head hazards, trade your comfy ball cap for a hard hat.

When you’re spraying chemicals, wear a wide-brimmed hat that is impervious to liquids, says Holly Higgins, Kansas Farm Bureau safety director. Make sure the brim is wide enough to keep chemical spray from drifting down on the back of your neck or face.

Eyes have been called the “window to the soul,” but just like all windows they can break if something is hurled, splashed or sprayed into them.

Safety goggles/glasses and sunglasses should be just as much a part of your daily garb as a good pair of steel-toed shoes, according to Higgins. Sunglasses are important because they lessen eye fatigue after long hours in the bright summer sun and when worn throughout the years may help prevent cataracts.

While many people consider the farm and rural America a place of quiet tranquility, many farmers experience hearing loss.

As a general rule, whenever the noise level reaches 85 decibels, farmers should reach for ear protection. While farmers don’t carry testing equipment to measure decibel level, they should wear protection when in doubt as to the noise level.

Earmuffs are preferable to ear plugs because the latter can cause compaction of ear wax that is difficult to remove.

Although they may be more comfortable, avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes that could get caught. If you plan to stay in the sun most of the day, wear long-sleeved cotton clothing. Natural fibers allow the skin to breathe and offer protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Avoid wearing sweats with long drawstrings that hang from the waist or around the neck. These strings are made of extremely strong nylon or other artificial fibers. Such fibers don’t rip or tear as easily as clothing like cotton. It’s too easy for dangling strings to catch in augers or other moving parts.

Shoes and boots can provide foot protection and good traction. Make certain your shoes are clean of mud and manure that can cause slipping and falls.

Good fit is important for both daylong comfort and stability. When spraying chemicals, wear waterproof or impervious footwear that won’t absorb chemicals.

Rings and watches hang up on bolts, sharp corners — just about anything you find around a farmstead. Always remove rings and other loose-fitting jewelry. If you fail to do so, you could easily lose or injure a finger or some other limb.

While the safely-dressed farmers will not make the fashion pages of “GQ” or “Esquire,” you won’t find them in the hospital, emergency room or obituary pages either.

— John Schlageck is a commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. He was born and raised on a farm in northwest Kansas.

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