Keeping children safe while they live, play and work on farms can be challenging. It’s even more difficult during harvest season — a peak time for agricultural injuries.

Long hours, a flurry of activity, less-than-ideal weather conditions and work with large machines make corn, milo and soybean harvest a dangerous time. People and equipment are pushed to the limit.

Every machine — combine, truck, tractor, grain cart or auger — offers its own unique hazards. Operator knowledge and attitude remain the key to a smooth, well-oiled fall harvest. A safe operator knows his or her skills, limitations and condition, both physical and emotional.

Carrying an extra passenger is also a safety concern. Children or young adults can fall from cabs. It’s instinct to hold onto something when jarred off balance. Some people have reached for the door handle, accidently hitting the latch and falling out.

It’s critical to train young people and go over safety precautions before harvest begins. Beyond the tasks associated with driving harvest equipment, recognizing potential hazards should be discussed.

Consider these safeguards:

• Securely fasten seat belts.

• Avoid ditches, embankments and holes if possible.

• Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes and on questionable surfaces.

• Avoid slopes too steep for operation.

• Do not allow passengers. Buddy seats might be a safer way.

• Be sure everyone is at a safe distance before moving.

• Operate combines, tractors, trucks and grain carts as smoothly as possible.

Every fall in Kansas, thousands of acres of corn, milo and soybeans must be harvested before foul weather or winter comes to call. With this added pressure comes the desire to take chances, short cuts and extend working hours. Such behavior only adds to fatigue and high levels of stress and tension.

Remember, harvest will take its toll if you don’t take breaks. Eating balanced meals, even if you only take 15 minutes, is important.

Stop the machine. Crawl off and relax a few minutes while you’re eating.

Drink plenty of water, tea or other cold liquids during what can be hot, dry days. Jump out of your machine for such breaks at least every hour.

Walk around the machine to limber up. This also will allow you to check for possible trouble spots on your machinery.

Before harvest begins, check your equipment and perform the proper maintenance. Consult your operator’s manual or dealer if you have questions. Well-maintained machinery reduces the chance for breakdowns and related aggravation in the field.

Delays due to breakdown only force harvest crews to work longer and harder to catch up. Such delays also increase the chance of accidents during this catch-up period.

Pulling pre-harvest maintenance is easier and less frustrating than fixing such problems in the cold or heat, dirt and sweat of the harvest field. Reduce your chances of aggravation now. It will be worth it.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwest Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.