During the rush of the growing season, keeping application equipment operators out of trouble is a main goal of everyone involved in the business. Making sure operators are alert to dangerous situations and making sure equipment failure doesn’t lead to an accident are two prime areas of concern.
There is considerable attention paid to “hours of service” for truckers but not as many restrictions on the hours of service that an applicator might be on duty. It is the responsibility of the employer to not overwork their equipment operators.
The daily checking of equipment to assure it is in top operating condition is usually the sole responsibility of the operator. Equipment manufacturers recommend the equipment be checked over at least daily just like a pilot checks his plane before leaving the airport gate.
While in the field, equipment failures can be life threatening to the operator. When an applicator is being driven from field to field, the threat of injury or death is to both drivers of vehicles that are sharing the road and the applicator operator. There are few major accidents each year but one road accident at high speeds can result in multiple deaths.
Eliminating all accidents is a goal, but a few accidents can be expected because of equipment failure following the hard use that application equipment goes through day after day and because of operator error.
Denny Stahl, vice-president of GVM, Inc. and a member of the Agricultural Retailers Association board of directors, said, “All of us in self-propelled applicator manufacturing have been a little lucky because everything that we build is off-road equipment. The units are running through ditches, hitting rocks and boulders and flying across fields at high speeds. We do our best to build them tough, but there are limits to what a unit can withstand without something happening.”
He went on to note, “If there is an accident because the front end fell off the applicator going down the road, then the ag retailer, company that made the axle, the machine manufacturer and everyone else who can be sued is going to be pulled into it. None of us want an accident, and being found somewhat responsible could be the financial end of smaller to mid-size companies.”
In conclusion, Stahl said, “Everybody has to be extremely safety conscious today, and ag retailers cannot afford to hire ‘cowboys’ that jump inside these units and speed away to a field without concern about safety.”
ARA is in the process of evaluating whether a brochure about applicator safety might be useful to ag retailers in educating and warning their application equipment operators. Stahl says there are safety warnings and procedures included in manufacturer equipment guides that should be part of applicator education.
AGCO, which has Mark Sharitz, the company’s applicator equipment director of marketing, also on the ARA board, provided a list of the equipment design goals that AGCO and other companies aim for in applicator equipment design to achieve safety. It is a basic list of goals that applicator manufacturers are trying to achieve, although some are accomplishing them better than others for a competitive edge.
Reduced in-cab noise level for the operator to hear outside activity.
Windows that provide a full all-around view to the outside.
Locating exhausts pipes, booms or various attachments so they don’t block a view.
Easy shifting transmission for less jerky, tiring ride.
Convenient location of controls for fast and easy reaction.
Comfortable operator chair to reduce fatigue.
Smoother ride suspension again to reduce fatigue.
Plenty of lighting for in-field and on-road visibility.
Mirrors of size and location to see all areas around the equipment.
Overall rugged construction to withstand operating over harsh terrain.