Before heading out to the hay field, farmers should examine equipment to ensure it’s in proper working order.

"Take a couple of hours now to check your equipment and fix it, so you’re not stuck in the field fixing equipment while trying to hurry up and beat the weather," said Jimmy Maass, safety coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau.

"Follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations, and inspect the equipment to make sure it’s up to their specifications."

Remember to shut down all equipment before working on it. If a baler gets jammed up, turn it off before clearing it out. For a round baler, engage safety locks or valves on the cylinders when the tailgate is lifted so it won’t fall down on top of you.

Make sure all safety equipment — power take-off shields, safety chains and chain guards — is in place, along with slow-moving vehicle emblems and reflective tape.

Check bearings, hydraulic hoses, tires and signal lights. Make sure no cutter blades, teeth or bars are bent or cracked. Keep extra shear bolts handy, and never use regular bolts in place of shear bolts.

Keep a charged water or foam fire extinguisher on all hay equipment and inside all work buildings.

"Relay safety information to all employees and anyone else who helps you, and train them how to properly lift and use all equipment," Maass said.

When loading hay, lift carefully with your legs. Do not stack bales too high, and tie in stacks by alternating bales and securing each stack. Strap round bales in place so they will not roll off the wagon or trailer.

"It’s a good idea to use escort vehicles when moving hay on roadways," Maass said.