STEVENS POINT — Agriculture settings can be unpredictable, making it important to be prepared and aware in order to stay safe, according to Tractor Central Human Resources and Safety Director Will Petska.

“We all have service shops of some form or another so it is important to be aware of their hazards,” Petska said at the Agricultural Safety Connection Educational Seminar Jan. 8 in Stevens Point.

Petska offered tips on common hazards in agriculture shops.

“One of the big ones is keeping emergency exits, fire extinguishers and other things employees need access to free and clear,” he said.

A common problem in shops is the accumulation of boxes, garbage, tools and other materials piled in open spaces. Over time this clutter can make it difficult for employees to reach proper emergency supplies or exits in the case of dangerous events.

“Some best practices that we have been working on at Tractor Central is trying to drop a lot of stuff from the ceiling from the exposed beams. We are mounting air hoses, electrical cords and other things so that if an employee needs to utilize them, they can reach up, pull them out and then retract them when they are done. This keeps stuff off the floor,” Petska said.

Another safety concern Petska said he sees in shops and on farms is not practicing safe lifting techniques, which can cause overexertion injuries.

“Most of us guys can probably handle a 42-inch lawn mower deck. We can probably pick it up and carry it, but the safe practice is to utilize two people because it is an odd shaped object that is hard to manhandle and pick up,” he said.

With employees, it is also important to check that they are not wearing any loose clothing, dangling jewelry or have long hair hanging free. These can all be caught in machinery, resulting in entanglement.

Besides making sure employees are keeping themselves safe, it is vital for shop owners to periodically check equipment such as abrasive wheels and electrical cords. Petska said tools including bench and pedestal grinders need to have grinding wheels in good working order and should be mounted to the floor or workbench to prevent them from falling. With electrical cords, general shop use may leave them with a gouge in the insulation or frayed cord ends, resulting in an electrical hazard. Cords with bad ends or that are damaged should be replaced or repaired to prevent injury.

“Electrical concerns and issues as well as lock out, tag out are in the OSHA top 10 (causes of injuries) in every industry every year,” he said.

Petska said another common source of injury is not using the right tool for the job.

“Use a ladder when necessary. We are notorious for using whatever is in the area because we have to get the job done, but we need to change that thinking in the shop setting to make sure we are using the right tool for the job,” he said. “This is especially true when it comes to hand tools. Screwdrivers shouldn’t be used as pry bars.”

Petska said it is important the employers and employees work together to keep the spaces clean and safe so workplace injuries do not occur and that everyone makes it home safe at night.