Safety on the farm is of primary importance. There are many hazards present in a hop yard. The repetitive motions of pruning and training, tractor use during harvesting, pesticide application, and the dangers present from working from an elevated platform or with machinery all present hazards to the hop grower and farm help. Compiled below is critical information from the New York State Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, with links to their fact sheets. Please read the fact sheets and their website carefully and remember to stay safe in your hopyard. Cornell's Integrated Hops Production Guide also has detailed information on pesticide application and safety precautions.
Emergency Plans and Accident Preparedness
Accidents can and will happen on farms, but accident preparedness is key to preventing and managing emergency situations. Preventative efforts, like properly storing chemicals and using a thorough pre-operation checklist on all machinery can be the key to preventing accidents, but even with the best management it is still possible that an emergency can occur. Having a well-practiced plan, fully stocked and readily accessible first aid kits, and a basic understanding of first aid can be the difference between a catastrophic accident and a recoverable accident.
Fires are an ever present and potential catastrophic threat on the farm. Many of the materials stored in barns and storage sheds are highly flammable and can act as accelerants or ignition sources. While not all fires can be prevented, the risk of fire can be minimized through regularly inspecting your farmstead for fire hazards, properly maintaining your electrical system, safely storing flammable liquids like gas, oil, fertilizers, and pesticides, and only allowing smoking in designated areas. Even with the most robust management practices the risk of fire cannot be eliminated. Conducting regular fire drills, posting emergency phone numbers (with directions to your farm), and practicing good housekeeping are all efforts that will help to keep your family members, employees, and first responders safe in the event of a fire. Finished hops should be dried to between 8 and 10% moisture. Hops that are baled above 11 or 12% moisture may mold or possible spontaneously combust. Dried hops are also a fire hazard and highly combustable. Heat sources, poor wiring, and cigarettes can all be sources of ignition to start a hop fire.
Tractors are the leading cause of accidental farm death in New York State. In 2009, the last year that data is available for, tractor related accidents accounted for 57% of all farm fatalities. Rollovers and runovers are the leading cause of accidental deaths by tractors.
NYSCAMH offers a Rollover Protection Rebate program where farmers can be reimbursed for 70% of their cost, up to $765. It is estimated that the proper use of a ROPS and a seatbelt is 99% effective in preventing tractor rollover deaths.
Runover deaths are caused when the tractor was started from the ground while in gear and bolts ahead, running over the operator. The only safe way to start a tractor is by climbing into the operator’s seat, and making sure that the tractor is in park or neutral and the clutch is depressed.
Power Take Offs (PTOs) can cause entanglement in machines leading to catastrophic injury or death. PTO shields are available from NYSCAMH for less than $80. Don’t wear things that can get entangled in the shaft. Walk around the tractor or implement instead of over. Shut off machine before making repairs. A 550rpm pto rotates 10 times in a second and a 1000 rotates 17 times.
Pinhole leaks in hydraulic lines pose another significant risk.
Repetitive motion injuries occur when a motion is repeated frequently without appropriate rest time. This can occur in a hop yard when pruning, training, or tieing coir. Some tips to avoid repetitive motion injuries include: using ergonomic equipment that is sized for your hand, using power tools with anti-vibration systems, and tools that keep your wrist in a neutral position.
Working in the field can expose you to hazards caused by the sun and by the heat. Keeping yourself adequately protected from the sun is important. If you are working in hot weather, especially with PPE, then it is essential to remain well hydrated and take frequent breaks to keep from experiencing heat stroke.
Working on an elevated platform is another hazard present in a hop yard.
Harvest time can be an especially busy time in a hop yard. The need to get the crop in within a short window, can cause fatigue. Fatigue is especially dangerous on a farm as it can interfere with your ability to stay alert and focused – two critical steps to avoiding accidents. Periodic rest breaks, adequate hydration and nutrition, and protection from the sun will help you feel less exhausted.
Pesticide use is another hazard present on most hop farms. New York State requires that all pesticide applicators be specially trained and that the label requirements on pesticides be followed. Pesticide labels are a legal document that must be followed.
A chainsaw is a very powerful and efficient tool, but can be dangerous when used improperly. Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment helps protect against accidents. PPE worn should include a chainsaw helmet with ear protection, safety chaps, work gloves, and boots with non-slip soles and a safety toe. If purchasing a saw, look for one with noise and vibration reduction features.
Electricity is an important form of energy on a farm, but can also pose a serious hazard through electric shock and fire. Properly grounded outlets, well maintained and appropriately sized wires, and lockout/tag outs for electrical equipment are just a few methods to help protect yourself from electricity.
Hop dust is a hazard unique to hop farms. Handling dried hops can be a source for exposure to dust that can be harmful, etc.
Pelletizing hops is another hazard unique to a hop operation. Dried hops are usually ground in a hammer mill and run through a pelletizing machine. Both of these are motor driven and can cause serious injury. No one should operate either without reading, understanding, and following the manufacturers safety instructions.