“Just because it has never happened does not mean it couldn't.”

That statement by Chip Petrea, researcher in agriculture safety and health at the University of Illinois, may seem obvious. But with planting season speeding up, it’s worth remembering.

Petrea shared some tips to keep in mind as farmers prepare for planting, including:

  1. Transport Safely: Be mindful as you transport equipment on public roadways. Petrea recommends providing the traveling public with many signs to warn them you’re moving more slowly than they are. Newer equipment features a wide variety of warning systems, such as flashing lights, extremity markings and slow-moving vehicle signs. He recommends bringing older equipment up to date to meet modern standards.

  2. Follow the Label: When applying products like herbicide, pesticide, or fungicide, it is important to read the label thoroughly. Do not overlook precautionary statements, such as those urging you to wear long sleeves or protect your eyes. Petrea suggests keeping a book of product labels handy in case a chemical gets on your skin or in your lungs. Not keen on keeping a book? Just snap photos of the label on your phone.

  3. Maintain Equipment: Keep every piece of equipment on your farm serviced. Even if you serviced a machine before putting it away last season, that does not mean it will be in perfect condition when you take it to the field this year.

  4. Store Fuel Properly: Store fuel away from your machine shed. Petrea says that if any problems arise and a fire erupts, keeping your fuel tank a safe distance away from buildings will offer the best protection.

  5. Stay Healthy: Spending long hours in the field does not mean you should skip meals or rest. Without an adequate amount of sleep and proper nutrition, you will be operating at a reduced level in the fields. Petrea says to follow the recommended guidelines for sleep and diet. To stay well rested, the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention suggest between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for adults. To make sure you’re eating right, use the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate guide.

  6. Watch for Children: Large pieces of equipment that make a lot of noise will attract a child’s attention. Petrea says to avoid carrying your children on your farm equipment. If that’s not possible, make sure your child is secured.