Fall Harvest Fleet Safety Plan
Author: Gallagher National Risk Control
Before we know it, the days will be shorter and cooler, and fall harvest will be just around the corner. A critical component for all harvest activities is getting the crop from the fields to storage or processing in a timely and efficient manner. Equipment breakdowns and motor vehicle accidents can seriously disrupt harvest. Developing a fleet safety program can minimize the potential for disruption, alleviate stress and reduce operating costs. A good fleet safety program should include the following components:
- Vehicle selection
- Vehicle maintenance
- Driver selection
- Operational preplan
When selecting the proper equipment, it is important to consider several criteria. What is the capacity required to handle the anticipated load? Is the equipment suitable for the fields and roads? Oversized trailers or wagons lose their efficiency if the roads and bridges are not wide enough or have turns that are too sharp. Backing up a grain cart to negotiate a curve is challenging at best. Do power units have sufficient power and braking capacity for their intended use?
Each piece of equipment should receive periodic inspections and service throughout the year, and have good maintenance records. During harvest, an inspection should be completed at the beginning and end of each day. The morning inspection assures the equipment is ready for the day, and the end-of-day inspection identifies repairs that may be needed before it is used the next day. Spare parts should be identified, stocked and easily accessible. A clean and well-organized shop is critical for efficient and timely repairs. Rushing to repair equipment in a messy shop can lead to wasted time and serious injuries. Equipment that has been properly inspected and maintained will help eliminate downtime and greatly improve efficiency.
Driver shortages continue to have a tremendous impact on agriculture. While it is tempting to fill the driver's seat with a "warm body," a less-than-qualified driver can cause serious problems. Poor drivers often can damage equipment, lose loads or cause serious accidents. In many cases, an accident may result in serious injuries to the driver and occupants of other vehicles. Make sure commercial vehicle operators current licenses that correspond with the type of vehicles they will be driving. Pull current motor vehicle records and compare them to insurance carrier standards to determine if they are insurable under your auto policy. Maintain current driver files in accordance with federal and state motor carrier requirements. Conduct a road test with the new driver, making sure they are capable of safely operating the equipment and have a complete understanding of their assigned tasks.
Determine which routes will be used during harvest. Inspect the road conditions for each route, looking for hazards such as washouts, soft shoulders, intersections and bridge conditions. Check for overhead obstructions such as low-hanging branches or power lines. Establish traffic control zones in receiving areas to minimize congestion with other vehicles and pedestrians. Provide drivers with maps and clear instructions. Identify and specify communication methods such as cellphone numbers and radio channels. Remind drivers that phone and radio communications should only occur when the vehicle is off the road and stopped, or using hands-free devices in accordance with state and federal regulations.
As harvest operations often begin before dawn and well into the night, receiving areas should be well illuminated. Employees on foot and drivers leaving their vehicles should wear high-visibility clothing to prevent being struck by moving equipment.
Fall harvest can be an exciting yet stressful time. Taking the time to select the proper equipment, making sure it is ready to go, hiring the right drivers and planning for success will reduce downtime and stress.
OSHA in Vegetable Processing
Author: Jake Jennings
There are several specialized areas in vegetable processing that cause concern for OSHA due to the severity of injuries that may occur. While not currently tagged in a Special Emphasis Program, an increase in frequency and severity of injuries/illnesses in vegetable processing would spark OSHA’s interest to assign more onsite inspections. To better understand about OSHA we will examine the most common reasons for an OSHA visit and then the most serious potential OSHA violations in vegetable processing.
Although many employers think OSHA has a "black list" of employers to target for inspections, actually they have a much more methodical approach to scheduling. For vegetable processing, the three most common reasons OSHA may schedule inspections would be:
- Complaint Inspections – Employee safety complaints sent or called in to OSHA alleging a violation of OSHA standards. In some cases OSHA will send a complaint letter to the company requesting an in-house investigation into the complaint items and the corrective action taken. For more serious alleged violations, OSHA will conduct an onsite investigation.
- Accident Investigations related to a work-related employee injury resulting in the loss of an eye, amputation, or in-patient hospitalization (not just seen and treated for the injury at the hospital). If any of the above injuries do occur the employer has 24 hours to call and report to their local OSHA office (8 hours in California). Once notified OSHA will either send a letter to the company requesting they conduct an in-house investigation to determine the cause of the accident and the corrective action taken or for more serious alleged violations, OSHA will conduct an onsite investigation. Should a fatality occur, the company must notify OSHA within 8 hours and an onsite inspection will occur.
- General Scheduled – Based on the injury and illness data received and compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and comparison to other companies in the same NAICS code, 4244, OSHA may determine that your facility should receive a General Scheduled onsite inspection.
The three most common OSHA violations recognized for NAICS Code 4244 from October 2019 through September 2020 were related to Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs), Lockout/Tagout and Machine Guarding. If your company were to receive an onsite visit from OSHA they will already have an indication of what areas they should focus on during the inspection. The injuries that may occur from non-compliance with these three standards usually result in serious injuries or death. Each of these standards are well known throughout industry and compliance should be made a priority in your company.
Powered Industrial Trucks like forklifts and powered pallet jacks can be very dangerous if not properly maintained, if not operated safely and if pedestrians get too close. The types of injuries related to the PITs may range from fractures to death and may be avoided. To ensure compliance with the OSHA standard for PITs and prevent serious injury for your employees, take the following steps:
- Operator training – both classroom and practical
- Daily inspections and preventive maintenance
- Marking designated aisles – pedestrian or for PIT traffic
- Improve operator visibility – dome mirrors at corners/intersections
- Re-route traffic when necessary to avoid congestion
Controlling energy when maintaining, servicing and/or cleaning equipment is necessary to prevent accidental start-up of equipment. All power sources must be identified and machine specific lockout/tagout procedures should be developed to ensure employees know exactly how to protect themselves. Implementation of an effective lockout/tagout program has been shown to prevent serious injuries and/or death. For compliance with this OSHA standard and to prevent serious injuries implement the following:
- Authorized and affected employee training
- Proper hardware for locking energy sources – locks and tags
- A Written Energy Control Program
When processes are used for dumping, washing, chopping, slicing, cleaning and packaging vegetables there are many moving parts with the machinery. Amputations typically occur when machine guards are not in place. A robust machine guarding program should be implemented to ensure all equipment has been inspected and that all hazards are eliminated. Machine guarding may include any of the following as long as you can show it is effective.
- Physical guarding – Attached to the machine covering the hazardous areas
- Light curtains – Equipment with light beams that will shut down the machine if the light beam is broken
- Gates/Fences with interlock gates
- Trip wires and E-Stops (not as effective for injury prevention but necessary to stop equipment in an emergency)
Many people see OSHA as the "bad guy" but in reality, their role is to protect your most valuable resource, your employees. There are many other specific OSHA standards that you must comply with to protect your employees but at the very least be very aware of the three addressed here that could cause serious injuries or death. With a better understanding of how and why OSHA may show up at your facility, you can take a proactive approach to comply with the standards and protect your employees.
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