CHS updates

Close call: Don't let today's near miss be tomorrow's accident

Every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.

Dec 02, 2020

"Whew, that was close! I’m glad no one got hurt.”

If that thought has crossed your mind, but was promptly replaced by more urgent demands, you missed an opportunity to make your farm or ranch a safer workplace.

Maybe you caught yourself before falling on an icy patch, swerved to avoid putting a combine wheel into a culvert or ducked to avoid being whipped by a broken belt — incidents like those are red flags for risks that could be identified and eliminated.

Top 10 Farm and Ranch Insurance Claims
  1. Fire
  2. Weather (wind, hail, lightning)
  3. Vehicle accidents on the road
  4. Equipment accidents on- and off-road
  5. Animal-caused damage
  6. Building collapse
  7. Workplace injuries
  8. On-site injuries (not work-related)
  9. Theft
  10. Food safety

Source: Nationwide, 2019

“We need to slow down and do something about close calls and near misses,” says Matt Surdick, manager of health and safety for CHS Country Operations. “Use the learning to make a difference. What can we do to prevent a real incident that could cause damages or injuries?”

“We walk past things every day that could be safety problems. If an accident doesn’t happen, it’s easy to get complacent,” says Jason Berkland, associate vice president for risk management with Nationwide, the largest U.S. insurer of farms and ranches. Founded in 1926 by Ohio farmers, Nationwide continues to focus on helping ag professionals manage risk.

“Something as simple as an exposed wire being bumped while moving something in a shop can start a fire,” Berkland explains. “Fire damage is one of the costliest insurance claim causes. When buildings catch fire, implements and livestock can be lost, too.”

Costs for accidents involving farm vehicles on the road are trending higher, too, he adds, due to rising medical and legal expenses.

Safety Takes Action

“Close calls are lessons,” says Berkland. “Don’t keep them to yourself and consider yourself lucky. If it almost happened to you, it could mean an injury for the next person.”

The two experts offer these steps for improving safety by heeding close calls:

Communicate. “If you run into an issue, talk about it,” says Surdick. “Saying, ‘This almost happened to me,’ builds awareness and foresight for others on your team.”
Listen to what others have observed or experienced, he adds. “It takes courage to say something, but it’s critical to preventing future problems.”

Take notes. Don’t count on your memory to keep a near miss top of mind. Write yourself a note so you’re sure to remember what happened and can share it with your team.

Find the cause. Talk about it as a team, says Berkland, and take time to drill down to the root cause and find solutions. “You might say, ‘We just finished harvest and we had three close calls. What did we learn? And how can we prevent those situations from happening again?’”

Provide training on proper procedures. On-site training helps everyone be more aware of potential hazards. “Don’t assume someone knows about a potential hazard,” says Surdick. “Once you assume knowledge, you take away the chance for learning and that person could walk or drive blindly into a dangerous situation.”

It’s important to have policies and procedures to follow,” adds Berkland, but what works for you may not work for everyone. “Watch them complete the task, providing coaching where appropriate, and be prepared to adjust the policy or procedure if needed.”

Don’t count on common sense. “Don’t rely on others to use common sense to guide their actions,” advises Surdick. “They haven’t had the same experiences you’ve had, so what makes sense to them might not help them avoid trouble.”

Get the team involved. “Everyone should help identify and act on close calls,” says Surdick. “The more eyes on the situation, the better. If everyone is looking out for each other and sharing what they see, we can make a difference.”

Use Proactive Steps to Avoid Losses

Jason Berkland of Nationwide offers the following suggestions to help identify and neutralize two common safety hazards.

Fire prevention
  • Keep fire extinguishers accessible and in working order.
  • Hire a certified electrician to inspect your electrical systems each year.
  • Ensure flammables, such as acetylene torches, are properly stored.
  • Minimize clutter to reduce fuel sources and to prevent contact with ignition sources, such as outlets.
Vehicle collisions
  • Always use signal lights; make sure they are clean and visible to other drivers.
  • Use hazard lights while driving on a public road.
  • Take extra precautions when turning, since drivers in vehicles behind you may be distracted or not aware of your signal.
  • Consider using a pilot car to lead and another vehicle to follow large equipment on the road.

Learn more: For tips on preventing damage and injuries, visit

Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.