Combines, also known as combine harvesters, are used to harvest crops. For the past many years, combines have been a mainstay of the agricultural industry which relies on these vehicles to enhance production and ensure that the harvests are adequately maintained.
Before the introduction of the harvester, three components made up harvesting grains: reaping, threshing, and finally winnowing.
How does a Combine Harvester Work?
The combine harvesters available today can combine all three steps into one smooth process. Consequently, harvesting grains is now more straightforward, efficient, and helps stimulate the mass production of various kinds of grains.
The process of using a combine or harvester on a plantation leaves behind waste straw or the remaining dried leaves and stems on the field.
The leftover waste straw contains limited nutrients. It is usually chopped and scattered across the farming field. Sometimes the remaining straws are baled and fed to livestock or utilized as bedding. The grains that are most commonly harvested are:
Combine harvesters have undergone tremendous development with the introduction of technological advancements in machinery. Furthermore, operators have been able to optimize their ground speed and other operational factors due to these electronic developments.
These variables have led to better grain yields and an increment in the total productivity. Combine harvesters now travel along highways and roads. Unfortunately, this leads to many harvester accidents.
In the agricultural industry in the US, harvesters play a vital role in the overall production. However, harvester accidents are a pervasive problem in every state. Harvester vehicles pose many dangers to not only the users but also to people in close vicinity of this heavy machinery.
Harvester accidents are a frequent occurrence, contrary to popular perception. In fact, such accidents are often the most disastrous with severe injuries, even fatalities. For this reason, individuals working in close proximity to harvesters must exercise the utmost precaution.
Safety is Paramount
The harvester has various large moving parts. Accidents usually occur due to an issue with one of these large moving parts. Individuals working with harvesters must be vigilant and cautious at all times.
This is crucial as even the smallest of errors could potentially lead to a life-threatening accident. Some of the most serious dangers associated with harvester accidents are:
- Improper use of the straw chopper or spreader equipment situated at the rear of the vehicle.
- The user gets entangled with the grain tank leveling or discharge.
- Harvester runs a person over.
- The cutting system pulls in the harvester user.
- User contact with the reel, knife, or stripper rotor.
- Automatic sensor system causes injury or traps the user.
- Header unfastens from the transport trailer leading to injury.
Common Combines and Corn Picker Injuries
The National Agricultural Safety Database highlights that virtually all farmers know of a friend, neighbor, or family member who has suffered injuries due to a corn picker accident. A large number of fatalities occur while operating combines using a hydraulic cylinder to uphold them.
Certain contemporary combines and corn pickers are bigger than a typical highway vehicle lane. This makes driving these vehicles on public roads potentially dangerous. Corn picker accidents have led to many injuries and deaths within farmer communities. Injuries commonly occur due to the pickers snapping the rolls. This happens because the pickers can plug if the vehicle’s speed is too low or fast.
A Perilous Move
The rollers can still travel readily when plugged. However, the stalks bunch around the rolls which prevents the stalks from entering. Farmers may try to expedite clearing the plug by unplugging the rollers before stopping the picker or shutting the tractor off.
When the farmer clears the stalk which led to the plug, it quickly moves into the roller. This can sometimes take the farmer’s arm or hand in its wake. Snapping rollers travel at around 12 feet per second.
This means that a farmer holding onto a stem at a distance of two or three feet from the machinery will not have more than half a second to disengage. Frequently, there just isn’t sufficient time to let go, and the operator is caught in the picker. This is a worst case scenario but it does happen once in a while.
Make sure to stop the machine and shut off the tractor before venturing to clear out the picker.
Safety Tips for Combines
Some safety tips while using combines are as follows:
- Assess field loss regularly. A well-calibrated combine should ideally keep corn kernel loss to 1 percent or less per acre. A majority of the damage occurs when full ears bob to one side.
- The driving speed should be fast enough to load the machine but not so rapid that it decreases the separation efficiency.
- Refuel the equipment only after it has cooled down. Fuel vapors can quickly erupt on hot engines. Combine fires often occur due to refueling accidents.
- Each combine should carry an appropriate and well-maintained fire extinguisher. Ensure that the extinguisher is accessible from the ground.
- Undertake routine maintenance and greasing in the morning when you are more alert.
- Drive the combine only when fully attentive. Ensure that you schedule breaks, switch jobs with someone and transfer combines between fields during daylight hours.
- Maintain adequate distance from other machines and vehicles. Make sure that you are always mindful of the location of other machinery.
- Blow debris, chaff leaves, and other waste from the machine frequently. Evaluate shafts, bearings, belts as well as other moving parts for plant material that may have become wrapped around these parts.
Watch YouTube Video – Farm Machine Safety: Combine Safety. This educational video provides safety tips and advice on how to operate a combine harvester properly.
Keep Safe on Public Roadways
The harvest season brings about more farm vehicles on the roads and highways. This could include the transfer of combines as well as other harvesting equipment between fields. Transporting produce through trucks and tractors is also a part of this increase in farm vehicles on the roadways.
Employer’s Obligations include Investigating Accidents
Employers in California are required by law to put in place an IIPP or Injury & Illness Prevention Program. As part of this program, the employer must have a pre-determined procedure for investigating any injury or illness (including any near-miss incident) that may occur during the course of the job.
The employer is required to document the investigation details in writing. The documentation may be completed by someone who is well-versed in the workplace safety practices and standards (such as a department supervisor or a safety manager.) For more information about employer’s legal responsibilities in California, click here.
Combine Harvester Accident Lawyers
I’m Ed Smith, a combine harvester accident lawyer in Sacramento. Combine harvester accidents happen more often than people think. If you or a family member has been injured in a combine harvester accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Call me for a free consultation at 916-584-9355.
I have worked with clients in Sacramento and throughout Northern California for 36 years with personal injury and wrongful death cases. My team and I have the experience to review your case and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
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