Putting safety at the forefront can lead to a more efficient hay-harvesting season, says Jim Maass, safety manager for Virginia Farm Bureau.

“Take the time now to check your equipment and fix it, so you’re not stuck in the field fixing it while trying to hurry and beat the weather,” he says.

Here’s Maass’ safety checklist:

  • Check bearings, hydraulic hoses, tires and signal lights.
  • Make sure cutter blades, teeth or bars are not bent or cracked.
  • Keep shear bolts for repairs handy. Don’t use regular bolts in place of shear bolts.
  •  Keep a charged water or foam fire extinguisher on all hay equipment and an ABC-type extinguisher inside work buildings.
  • Relay safety information to all employees.
  • Shut equipment down before working on it.
  • Double check that all safety features – power take-off shields, safety chains and chain guards – are in place along with slow-moving vehicle emblems and reflective tape.
  • Before loading hay, check all straps and chains for frays, breaks and tears. Replace them if they’re damaged.
  • Strap round bales in place so they will not roll off a wagon or trailer.
  • Check that the points to which you tie or connect straps are strong enough to support the load if it shifts.
  • After driving a few miles, check straps or chains to make sure they haven’t loosened.