In recent weeks, there has been a growing — and needed — discussion about the emotional health of farmers during this very challenging time in agriculture. Sadly, I pen this column today having just learned of a suicide death of a farmer in Minnesota.

There also have been several farm accidents in recent weeks, many of which resulted in one or more deaths. Just last week, a 17-year old a couple of counties over from where I live died in a crash with a gravel truck.

Apparently unaware of the truck, the young man swerved to the middle of the roadway to maneuver his farm implement past a culvert at the same time the gravel truck was overtaking the tractor.

When you are running fast and furious against a clock to get the task at hand done before a certain calendar date or the next rain moves in, safety is not always top of mind. Staying alert, getting rest and staying hydrated are more important than most people realize.

Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured and hundreds more die in farming accidents. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation.

Start by increasing your awareness of potential hazards and making a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires, and chemical exposures.

Pack a safety kit and make sure someone knows where you are working. Use safety lighting, markings and escort vehicles.

Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals and on product labels. Inspect equipment routinely for problems that may cause accidents. Make sure guards on farm equipment are replaced after maintenance.

All machinery and equipment moving parts and hydraulics should be locked securely before transporting on a road. Install approved rollover protective structures, protective enclosures, or protective frames on farm tractors — buckle up!

Take precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos, or hoppers. Never “walk the grain.”

Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can form in unventilated grain silos and manure pits and can suffocate or poison workers or explode.

Take advantage of safety equipment, such as bypass starter covers, power take-off master shields and slow-moving vehicle emblems. Wear appropriate protective equipment, including gloves, safety glasses and hearing protection.

If you have part-time seasonal help working on your farm, make sure they know where the holes and stumps and other “booby traps” are located when they are mowing hayfields or ditches.

Flooding and other unkind acts by mother nature may change the lay of the land for those who have been farming it for many years, so be sure you know where the new booby traps are located.

It only takes a heartbeat to take an action — or fail to take an action — that could change your life and the life of others forever. Take care of your physical and emotional health and practice farm safety.

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