September 17-23 is National Farm Safety & Health Week, and it’s the perfect time to refresh ourselves on the staples of farm safety as we prepare for the harvest season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 410 agriculture workers died on the job or from an agriculture-related injury in 2019. That’s more than one farmer every day who didn’t make it home to their family.
“No one can take your place,” this year’s National Farm Safety & Health Week theme, reminds us there are often no second chances when it comes to farm safety.
Facing the Facts
Of the agricultural worker deaths in 2019, the leading cause was transportation accidents, such as trailers overturning. University of Missouri Extension echoes the dangers of machinery, stating tractor rollovers are the leading cause of fatalities in the agriculture industry, accounting for more than half of all farm-related deaths.
Some additional factors that commonly cause farm accidents include:
- Defective equipment
- Missing product labels or equipment warnings
- Farm structure or equipment fails
- Improper training
- Grain engulfment or entrapment
While the list of possible causes could stretch on further, the list of potential impacts on farmers extends even longer, including:
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Hearing loss
- Broken bones
- Cuts and scrapes from tractor injuries
- Skin conditions from chemical burns or sun exposure
- Eye irritation
- Heat stroke
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Respiratory disease
Researchers used data from National Electronic Injury Surveillance to determine these leading health effects, and they uncovered some eye-opening statistics while they were at it.
Over a five-year period, an estimated 62,079 people were treated in an emergency department for agricultural-related injuries. Of those, approximately 30% were young patients and 22% were elderly.
These age groups typically aren’t in the workforce for other industries, but they are commonly involved in agriculture, creating additional risk.
Finding the Solution
While these facts remind us of harsh realities in agriculture’s history, we each can play a role in creating a more optimistic future for the industry.
“Failure to plan is planning to fail.” We’ve all heard it before, but it’s said for a reason. Planning ahead and being prepared for emergencies are some of the most important steps you can take to make your farm a safe place to be.
Developing a safety checklist and creating a farm emergency plan helps you be proactive rather than reactive. These documents make sure everyone involved in the farm is on the same page about how to handle these intense and scary situations.
Make the list and check it twice
Your safety checklist should contain a list of all equipment that should be checked before operating. Review recommendations from the NIOSH, the National Ag Safety Database and your local codes to ensure your equipment meets lighting and marking requirements. While you’re taking a look around the shop, take note of any repairs that may be needed before harvest, too.
Put proper protocol in place
A quality emergency plan answers the immediate questions that come to mind in the event of an emergency. Who do you call? Where do you meet? What do you bring? Include answers to these and other questions you anticipate in emergency situations.
It’s also important to train anyone who will be around or operating equipment so everyone is aware of proper protocol. Include this training when you go over your safety checklist and emergency plan. During this training with your farm crew, it can be helpful to walk through potential scenarios to see the plan in action.
For more information on aspects of farm safety that may be overlooked, join educational webinars throughout the week and learn how to protect you and your family and keep your place on the farm.