Spring Into Safety: Part 2

By Lindsay Humphrey

04 /01 /24

To drive home the importance of safety on the farm with employees both young and old, we caught up with someone who grew up working on the farm and continues to do so today. Check out what Nebraska farm hand Josh King has to say about his experiences on the farm starting at just 7 years old and now almost 20 years later.  


The youngest and only boy of the family, Josh King learned a lot of practical safety skills and nuances from his dad by simply being around him in the shop at home. Although beneficial, that wasn’t a substitution for on-the-job safety training.  


“Farm safety training is important of course but also very situational,” said the young farm hand. “One employer was really good about having conversations about how to do something and explaining the potential scenarios that could play out and how to handle those. Sometimes we’d be walking by something on the place and he’d point out that this equipment, or whatever it might be, could do x, y or z.”  


After working for multiple farmers in his life, King appreciates that they were all different in their approaches to discussing safety and potentially hazardous situations. This knowledge helped shape how he teaches some of the younger employees that he now oversees.  


“I remember one time I put a pickup on its side in a ditch; I won’t mention how old I was but not old enough to be driving that’s for sure,” King explained. “I was super excited because I was getting to drive, and I didn’t really understand the dangers of the bridge I was driving over. I wasn’t old enough to be an employee at the time, I was just tagging along on the farm. The point is: you have to make sure someone is prepared for and has the ability to do a task in the first place.”  


It's not about holding someone’s hand through every task. King emphasized that employers need to be willing to teach someone how to do something the right way the first time and make sure they have a clear understanding for a safe and beneficial outcome. Some might pick up on the task on that first go round and others may need more guidance. A good employer will take on that mentorship role and guide their employees for as long as they need them to. 


“I’m a big believer that sometimes the best way to learn is to get thrown into it headfirst, but that’s not always the right mentality either,” King said. “When I was first learning how to drive the grain cart and unload on the go, my uncle let me run the speed of the tractor while he was controlling the steering wheel. He knew it was a lot to pick up on all at once and that made it easy to master one task before adding another one to it.”  


Plenty of firsts for King – like spraying, planting, harvesting, driving grain trucks, etc. – played out similarly to the grain cart scenario. King admits he was always eager to get behind the wheel and prove himself but now appreciates that his boss’ had the foresight to guide him through those first few passes.  


“From a boss’s perspective, you have to be comfortable letting someone operate the piece of equipment while being confident they can do it because you’ve watched them do it with your own eyes,” King said. “When I’m working with people, either younger than me or newer to the job, I ask if they have questions and if they feel comfortable with the task. It's possible to over explain things but that's not always a bad thing. And giving real life experiences can be helpful to illustrate why you might not do something a certain way.”  


Now what many would consider a veteran farm employee, King is still gleaning information from his peers and keeping safety top of mind each and every day. 


“Of course, you have to watch out for yourself on the job but you’re also watching out for other people, both for their safety and your own,” King said. “I think most accidents happen because people get into a rush. You have to step back every once in a while, and look at what you’re doing and make sure that it’s both correct and safe. That’s for your own safety and everyone else working with you. Safety always has to come first.


“I almost cut off my finger recently because I got into a hurry and didn’t think through what I was doing before I did it. It’s something that can happen to anybody. It’s those small moments where you lapse in judgement and react before you think about what you’re doing that’ll get you in the most trouble.”  


What it all boils down to for King is that it’s the boss’ responsibility to make sure their employee is both competent and comfortable with each task. But the employee also must be truthful if they feel uncomfortable with something. 


“Generally, nobody is probably going to say they don’t want to do a task or will admit to being uncomfortable doing it,” King added. “I know I was ambitious and wanted to operate equipment whenever I got the chance. And I know the pickup accident happened primarily because I was so excited to drive that the risks or possible scenarios never crossed my mind.”  


The Halderman Companies believe safety in all employment situations is critical and support good farm safety practices. There are many resources available for employee training and we encourage having new employees complete that training prior to working independently. For part one of our “Spring Into Safety” series, click here