Friday, October 19, 2007

'Safety First' sounds good on paper, lacking in practice

By Kevin Duling

Is it me, or does OSHA know just exactly when to show up? I believe I was standing underneath a raised implement replacing a point. Dad was at the grinder working on a piece of metal and my brother was using the cutting torch on another piece of machinery.

None of us were doing jobs considered unsafe. It’s the way we were doing them. First, I was underneath a raised implement without the hydraulic guard keeping the implement up. Second, Dad was grinding away without gloves or goggles, and lastly, my brother was cutting metal without gloves or a visor.

I know what you are thinking: “You guys aren’t very smart are you?” I don’t think “smarts” is the problem. I believe farmers fall closer in line with reality. Yes, something bad could have happened to all three of us, but most farmers understand that sometimes it is rational to be ignorant.

Feel free to throw the first stone if you have not done any of those things. The American society has evolved where risk is supposed to be erased. For example, when a car drove off the curve, it was not considered the driver’s fault. A guard rail had to be installed to prevent that from happening again.

Next time, a car hit the guard rail and the driver hit his head. With that came the seatbelt. A car hit the guard rail again and the driver still hit his head. With that came the air bag. Again, a car hit the guard rail and this time the passenger hit her head. Hence, the passenger air bag.

I always have to laugh at the “passenger airbag” button on the dashboard. How many arguments have taken place between a woman and a man because of the optional passenger air bag?

The man, wanting to provide for his family, disengages the passenger bag in case he hits a deer while he’s by himself, not wanting to pay the $3,000 to reinstall the airbag. The man forgets about the button when he picks the woman up. The woman notices the disengaged air bag and the couch is in his immediate future.

We recently purchased a combine. It is not brand new, but it’s close. One of our traditions is to start the separator and header each morning and give everything a really good look before starting the day. We have found many potential break-downs by doing this.

The new combine has a safety feature. If you get out of the seat, everything stops. I suppose it’s not too bad as long as there is more than one of us present, but what about the times out in the field when you thought you heard a small “thunk”? Some of our modern safety features are fine on paper, but highly annoying in the real world.

I would guess every safety feature came about because something bad happened. Recently, I heard a radio commercial telling us how to cook a hamburger. How have humans managed to survive this long without that kind of knowledge?

I can’t imagine a horse and buggy being a safe means of travel. I’m sure they didn’t have seatbelts and airbags. Shocks probably weren’t very good either. Losing the brakes would depend on snakes, the weather and what you fed the horse yesterday.

I have a picture of a team of 12 horses pulling a grain combine with seven men on it. If only OSHA was in service back then. It would seem tough to accomplish the job while constantly trying to wear a seatbelt while running the bagger. Also, the 105 degree days would be mighty unpleasant while wearing a helmet, ear plugs, goggles, and a dust mask.

The good news was the OSHA guy was lost when he arrived on our farm. He was actually looking for our neighbor (poor guy). The bad news is we gave him the correct directions to our neighbor’s house. My neighbor gave me quite a glare when I yelled, “Remember, safety first!!” out the car window the next day.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories are posted on the Capital Press blog on Fridays. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright July 2007, Kevin Duling

1 comment:

threecollie said...

Good post! Sad state of affairs today when we can't even be trusted to light a match without instructions and safety precautions.
And OSHA actually comes to your farm?? Heaven forfend if that ever happens here.

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