Minnkota helps take ag safety on the road

Minnkota donates a truck to support North Dakota Safety initiative.


Emily Windjue


October 24, 2022

The agriculture industry is the heart and soul of rural North Dakota and Minnesota. While the region and its economy rely on the dedication of farmers and ranchers, the job comes with serious risks. In 2020, 13 North Dakotans were killed in preventable agricultural-related accidents. The North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) knew it needed to find a way to develop and implement a stronger safety foundation for rural farmers and ranchers in the region – and Minnkota was ready to help.

The NDSC purchased a 24-foot enclosed trailer and transformed it into a mobile safety lab, thanks to a Sponsorship from North Dakota Farmer’s Union. The trailer is equipped with seven custom-made module units that are dedicated to providing kids and adults with interactive lessons on agriculture safety. The modules feature hands-on demonstrations from ag-related areas including grain handling, chemical safety, power take–off, personal protection equipment, all-terrain vehicles, farm site and powerline safety.

With the addition of the mobile safety lab, the NDSC faced one major obstacle – how to pull this massive trailer. At a board meeting for the NDSC, Jason Uhlir, Minnkota’s safety manager, pitched a promising solution. Minnkota had a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 4X4 truck in good condition that was on its way to being retired from the cooperative’s fleet, but would work perfectly to pull the trailer.

“I ran a request up the chain about donating a truck to an ag-related program, and everyone agreed that this was a good idea,” said Uhlir, who also serves on the NDSC board.

The North Dakota Safety Council sets up a display for its mobile safety lab at the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo, N.D.

NDSC Executive Director Chuck Clairmont has been working closely on the project since NDSC received an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Susan Harwood Curriculum Development Grant in 2020. The grant helped in the development of a seven-course training class dedicated to agriculture safety. Rather than trying to bring farmers to a classroom, Clairmont and the NDSC knew it would be more effective to bring the classroom to the farm.

“Ag safety is an area in the safety world that is just really missing,” Clairmont said. Thanks to Minnkota’s donation, the NDSC can now take its safety lab all across the state.  

“We have this massive trailer and thank goodness that you guys donated the pickup because we needed it to be able to move,” said Clairmont. “We were so thankful.”

There are still a few obstacles the NDSC has left to face with the development of the mobile safety lab. Clairmont mentioned it is more time-consuming than expected to create these modules.

“We have invested more time and money than originally anticipated, but we want this entire ag safety program to be top-notch. When it’s rolled out, it will have the power to help prevent injuries and save lives,” Clairmont said.

Uhlir, a born-and-raised farm boy, agrees that the impact this trailer can have on our region is worth the investment.

“A lot of folks don’t understand the hazards until it’s too late. And they don’t always have safety nerds like me hired to train them,” Uhlir said with a smile. “I think the trailer has the potential to really make a large impact in the lives of a lot of farmers. If it reaches just one farm family and teaches them something to prevent a tragedy, that’s just awesome.”

The power take-off module demonstrates how quickly a PTO electric motor rotates and what could happen if a hand or arm gets caught in the rotation.

The NDSC has a starting goal of taking the ag safety trailer to around 10-15 events in its first year, from cooperative annual meetings to 4H groups and trade shows. The trailer debuted its first completed module at the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo, N.D., on Sept. 13-15.

The PTO (or power take-off) module demonstrates the dangers associated with  operating the powerful rotating system if it is not turned off before exiting the equipment. A PTO is needed to connect equipment to augers and other non-motorized equipment.

During the initial showing of the trailer, several groups of students from Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, S.D., took a peek at the interactive safety module. As they gathered around the trailer, one student made a comment that solidified the years of hard work the NDSC has dedicated to this innovative safety tool.

“We are here to find something that has to do with ag safety, and what is better than this?” he said.

Terry Guthmiller, an agriculture instructor and consultant who attended Big Iron Farm Show, talks with Lake Area Technical College students about the features of the NDSC ag safety trailer.
Main image: Minnkota Safety Manager Jason Uhlir (left) is joined by NDSC Executive Director Chuck Clairmont (right) and NDSC Director of Business Development and Marketing Kristin Wilson (middle). Photo courtesy of the North Dakota Safety Council.


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