Today, I posted this video on my Facebook page.
I was a little taken aback because there was some criticism to the video regarding safety. While I appreciate the concerns for my family and our safety, I feel like it deserved a full response.
First, let’s discuss what we’re doing in the video.
The big white tote is full of soybeans. It weighs between 2,500 to 3,000 pounds – it’s quite a big tote! It contains enough soybean seeds for us to plant about 30 acres. When we purchase the soybean seeds, they are delivered on a semi-truck to the farm. This year we had about 20 of the totes delivered.
As you can see from the video, the tote has four lift handles on the top. It also has a hole in the bottom with a shoot so the beans can come out. The hole is tied until we’re ready to dump the beans. We have to lift the bag so we can dump the beans into the seed tender. The seed tender is then used to fill the soybean planter. It generally takes about 4 totes to fill the seed tender.
We use an excavator to lift the bag high enough to get it over the seed tender. The excavator is able to handle the bag with ease. Our forklift cannot lift the bag that high, so the excavator is our only option. Normally, we have two people unloading the soybeans into the seed tender, though this was a special occasion for the video.
Once the tote is suspended over the seed tender, the excavator’s controls are locked. Someone then climbs to the top of the seed tender and unties the shoot at the bottom of the tote. There is actually a ledge at the top of the seed tender and it is divided in the middle so no on enters into the tank of the seed tender. The seed tender is actually quite shallow, and would probably only go up to someone’s chest or shoulders if it was completely filled.
As I mentioned, some people commented on the video and were very critical of the method of which we perform this task. I appreciate that people want to make sure my family is safe, but we’re comfortable with the process we use. This is the way our farm operates and this is the best solution we have to accomplish this task.
Allow me to address a couple specific concerns….
- The seed dealer should have safer bulk handling equipment
It isn’t the seed dealer dumping the seeds into the seed tender. It’s us. We own the seed tender and we own the excavator. That’s the equipment we have and that’s the equipment we use. Sure, we could buy a self-loading seed tender or some other equipment, which would be expensive, but we are happy with the current method.
Someone else suggested that we get pro-boxes to assist with unloading. The difference is that we would use our forklift instead of the excavator. But someone still has to climb up the seed tender to open to the door on the box. The chances of the hydraulics on the forklift failing are much higher than the hydraulics on the excavator failing, because the excavator has a much higher weight capacity. In addition, pro-boxes has to be returned with an additional cost of shipping for delivery and return. We purchase our seed from two states away, so this would be prohibitively expensive for a marginal benefit, if any.
- The slow moving vehicle sign is not supposed to be on vehicles traveling over 25 mph
This is not a correct interpretation of the law, at least not in Michigan. According to the 2016 Michigan Farmer’s Transportation Guidebook, which is published by Michigan Farm Bureau in conjunction with the Michigan State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, it is true that a slow moving vehicle sign is required on any vehicle that has a maximum speed potential of 25 mph. But, that does not mean that the slow moving vehicle sign is limited to only those situations. A slow moving vehicle sign is required on ANY implement of husbandry, ANY farm tractor, ANY special mobile equipment, or ANY vehicle with a maximum speed of 25 mph.
The seed tender is a special mobile equipment. Therefore, the slow moving vehicle sign is required to be on it. Keep in mind that many tractors and sprayers today go well over 25 miles per hours. But they still require a slow moving vehicle sign.
That’s Michigan law. MCL 257.688.
- Why aren’t you complying with OSHA requirements?
This was more of a question than a criticism, but I want to address it fully here. OSHA actually has no jurisdiction over our farm. When I say we’re a family farm, I’m not kidding – it’s just us working on the farm. People that are self-employed or farms that only employ their immediate families are not subject to OSHA regulations.
The guy in the video is my dad. My mom was taking the video. My brothers were in the fields. That’s our entire staff.
The question related to why farmers do not wear hard hats, as it is something that is usually required on a construction site. In this case, I’m not sure how a hard hat specifically would protect us from anything. If the tote fell, for example, a hard hat is not going to protect you from 3,000 pounds falling on top of you.
Again, I appreciate the focus on farm safety, but the criticism here was not well met. It was a 30 second video meant to give consumers a look into how we do things on our farm. 30 seconds. That doesn’t give people a full insight into how or why we do things the way we do, what precautions we’ve already taken, or even what law applies to our slow moving vehicle sign.
It was not a safety video meant to show people how to do this in compliance with OSHA regulations. This works for us. Maybe someone else has a better option that works for them, or implements safety measures that they think are important. But this works for us.
And that’s really the point here – we all farm different, that doesn’t mean we’re farming wrong.