Ice and water tank safety on the farm
In our area, winter on the farm presents a set of challenges you will not face at other times of the year. It’s important that you prepare for these potential safety hazards.
Protect against low spots
During the winter, it becomes obvious where the low spots on your property are. When the ground freezes, water will pool in these spots and freeze to form areas of ice. This can easily happen around buildings. To avoid this problem, pay attention to low areas before the ground freezes, and fill in these spots. Be sure to slope the ground away from buildings to avoid water entering them or having low spots near entrances where ice may form in winter.
Sometimes you will also find low spots in high-traffic areas in the yard. These areas should be built up, and the yard graded to ensure a safe surface for driving and walking.
Another place to watch for low spots is in the yards where you keep animals. Frequently, you will find low spots along shelters, water troughs and concrete surfaces. Be sure to fill in these spots so water cannot collect and turn to ice. You especially want to protect surfaces near water troughs from developing into slippery icy patches.
Clearly mark areas of water
Where you have areas of water, you should always use markings to set them apart in the winter. Use brightly colored stakes or temporary fencing to mark off cisterns or hydrants, as they could become obscured by snow. If you have a pond, mark off the edge of the water, as it could become covered by snow, and if the ice isn’t thick, you or an animal could fall through.
If you have moving water on your property, like a stream or creek, it’s important to remember that moving water takes longer to freeze and less time to thaw than standing water. Be sure to mark off the water, as it could become hidden under the snow. Larger bodies of water also take longer to freeze than smaller bodies (think lake vs. farm pond). It is important to do what you can to keep your animals off the ice, so they don’t fall through and injure themselves or drown.
Ensure your animals have access to thawed water to drink
Heated troughs, tanks and water buckets are great solutions. However, these products do carry safety risks that some owners overlook. Before using these products, ensure you have an adequate electrical system. If you are unsure, you may need to have an electrician inspect it, especially if you plan to use multiple heaters.
Any heaters should also be inspected before use, especially if they are old. Examine the electrical cord and make sure it is protected from the animals, or they may chew through it. If your animals refuse to drink the water, it may be because there is an electrical current in the water. Unplug and remove the heater and replace it with a new one. Watch for these signs to keep your animals safe.
Implementing safety measures like these will help keep you and your animals safe, even in a cold climate. Stay safe this winter!
For more information on how Columbus Community Hospital’s Occupational Health Services team helps farmers in the winter and year-round, visit columbushosp.org.