It’s the start of farm accident season. More than 70% percent of farm accidents happen during the months from May to September, a time when farmers are at their busiest, planting and harvesting. What you may not know is that working in agriculture is one of the most hazardous jobs in the U.S., with tractors and heavy machinery responsible for half of all farm accidents and most fatal farm accidents.
These farm equipment accidents happen with the greatest occurrence to those ages 15-65. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, of those persons involved in farm fatalities, nearly 300 are children – many thousands more of whom are injured each year.
Other causes of farming accidents include exposure to toxic levels of herbicides, chemicals, and pesticides, faulty equipment, falls, and entrapment in hazardous areas like silos, grain bins and wells. These accidents can result in amputation, fractures, head injuries, asphyxiation, and other injuries.
Programs like Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK) help to educate young people on farm safety practices, and the U.S. Department of Labor, in conjunction with OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is searching for better ways to get the word out on farming safety and the best ways to prevent future farming fatalities, injuries and illnesses. Their recommendations for farm accident prevention are listed below.
Recommendations for Accident Prevention
Make accident prevention a management as well as a personal goal. Develop an awareness of hazards on the farm and make a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires, and adverse health effects from chemical exposures.
Reduce your risk of injury and illness with preventive measures. Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals. Follow instructions on product labels for safe use, handling, and storage.
Conduct routine inspections of your equipment to determine problems and potential failures that may contribute to or cause an accident.
Conduct meetings with employees and family members to assess safety hazards, discuss potential accident situations, and outline emergency procedures.
Be especially alert to hazards that may affect children and the elderly.
Minimize hazards by careful selection of products you buy, by providing good maintenance of tools, buildings, and equipment, and establishing good housekeeping procedures.
Provide rollover protective structures, protective enclosures, or protective frames as appropriate for farm tractors.
Use seat belts while the tractor is in operation.
Make sure guards for farm equipment are put back on after maintenance to protect workers from moving machinery parts.
Review material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and labels that come with chemical products.
Communicate information concerning hazards to all workers. Prevent pesticide poisonings and dermatitis caused by chemicals by ensuring that protective measures recommended in the MSDSs or labels are taken.
Take the necessary precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos or hoppers
Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be present in unventilated grain silos and manure pits in quantities sufficient to cause asphyxiation or explosion.
Practicing safety protocols and taking the proper precautions with each and every task completed on the farm is of vital importance. These decisions and procedures only take an extra second, but ultimately could mean the difference between life and death. If you’d like more information on farming safety, check out these related resources:
National Ag Safety Database: A Review of Farm Accident Data Sources and Research
OSHA Fact Sheet: Farm Safety