Originally written by Tracey Erickson, former SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist.
Forage harvesting for hay will soon be upon us, and we need to take the time to prepare our equipment and ourselves for a safe and successful forage harvest when utilizing a baler. One of the biggest hazards we face is fires, and we need to be cognizant at all times of the potential for fires to start while baling hay or straw and take measures to minimize the potential of a fire occurring.
Before you head out to bale take the time to do the following maintenance checks on your baler with the objective of fire prevention:
- Remove any trash or plant material accumulation on the baler and take time to blow off dust, leaves, and dry stems.
- Keep the baler free and clean of oil, grease or hydraulic fluid accumulation, which also attracts and holds dust while baling and is highly ignitable.
- Carry an “ABC” fire extinguisher on the baler or in your tractor at all times. Make it easily accessible and check it to make sure it is still adequately charged with fire retardant and not beyond its expiration date. (An “ABC” rating on fire extinguishers means that it is rated to control “A”-Trash, Wood, Paper; “B”-Liquids; “C” – Electrical).
- Carry a minimum of 4-5 gallons of water to use if a fire would ignite.
- It is also recommended to have a shovel or spade with you to throw dirt on a fire or pat out the “hot” spots.
- Take time to inspect all moving parts for wear or friction before heading out to bale. Especially bearings and belts.
- Do not over fill the fuel tank as the overflow of fuel can have a potential to become ignited. These spills should be cleaned up immediately. Shut off the engine and electrical equipment while filling the fuel tank. The fuel nozzle should be grounded against the filler neck to avoid sparks.
- Immediately repair any hydraulic or fuel leaks and clean up any spills. Hydraulic fluid is flammable.
- If welding repairs are required, take care not to weld near pipes, tubes or hoses filled with flammable fluid such as gas, oil or hydraulic oil.
- Do not smoke near the baler or tractor as this adds to the potential for a spark to cause a fire ignition.
- Carry a charged cell phone with you to make an emergency call if necessary.
- Be able to give directions to your location in an emergency situation.
Lastly, make sure that you communicate with others where you will be working so that they also will know where to locate you if an emergency situation would arise. Prevention and maintenance only takes a few minutes versus trying to recover from a catastrophic loss caused by a potentially avoidable fire.