Schlageck: Dress the part
If Billy Crystal’s Fernando character were to visit a Kansas farm this spring you can be sure he wouldn’t be telling too many farmers, “Darling, you look marvelous.” You can also bet not too many farmers step into the cab of their tractors wearing any of the high fashions portrayed on the pages of GQ or Esquire.
Looking good is great when you go to town, but safety and comfort are much more important when dressing for farm chores.
Let’s begin with the head. After all that’s where thinking about safety should start, says Holly Higgins, Kansas Farm Bureau safety director.
Head injuries are common on the farm and tend to be serious, Higgins adds. When doing work that involves head hazards, trade your familiar ball cap or straw hat for a hard hat.
“When you’re spraying chemicals, wear a wide-brimmed hat that is impervious to liquids,” she notes. “Make sure the brim is wide enough to keep chemical spray from drifting down on the back of the neck or face.”
Eyes have been labeled the “window to the soul,” but just like all windows they can break if something is hurled, splashed or sprayed into them.
Safety goggles and sunglasses should be just as much a part of your daily garb as a good pair of steel-toed shoes, Higgins says. Throw away those athletic shoes unless you’re slated for a track meet somewhere off the farm.
Sunglasses are important because they lessen eye fatigue after long hours in the bright Kansas sun. Some believe quality eyewear can also lessen the chance of cataracts in later life.
While people often consider the farm a place of quiet tranquility, many farmers experience hearing loss, the safety specialist says. 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.
Higgins recommends ear muffs rather than ear plugs because the latter can cause compaction of ear wax which is difficult to remove.
“Loose-fitting clothes remain a definite no-no,” she says. “If you plan to stay in the sun most of the day wear long-sleeved cotton clothing. Natural fibers allow the skin to breath and offer protection from the sun’s harmful rays.”
Avoid wearing sweats with long draw string that hang from the waist or around the neck. These strings are made of extremely strong nylon or other artificial fibers, Higgins says. These fibers don’t rip or tear as easily as clothing like cotton. It’s easy for dangling draw strings to catch in augers, power take offs or other moving parts.
Proper fitting clothing is important for both daylong comfort and stability, she says. When spraying chemicals, wear waterproof or impervious footwear that won’t absorb chemicals.
Take off your jewelry in the field. Rings hang up on bolts, sharp corners – just about anything found around a farmstead. Don’t risk losing a finger or some other limb.
While the safely dressed farmer will not make the fashion pages of GQ or even his local newspaper or social media, you won’t find him/her on the obit pages either.
— John Schlageck is a commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. He was raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas.