Farm Safety 101
While the total number of agricultural fatalities has been decreasing in recent years, farm safety is still an important topic, with 285 farmers and ranchers being killed on the job in 2007 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Farming life often brings to mind an idyllic setting: tranquility, a breeze, a peaceful lifestyle. And while farming indeed can be all of those things, it also presents a multitude of hazards. All farm workers are wise to be diligent in taking precautions and staying ever-vigilant about safety measures.
Liza Corzo Holman, of Holman’s Harvest, agrees with OSHA government officials who promote farm safety. “I’ve seen a few farm injuries in my lifetime,” Holman says. “My uncle was injured by a pregnant pig — a sow — and my Dad has been kicked and thrown by a cow.”
“My husband got sick from welding with the wrong helmet, and as a physical therapist, I had a patient that sustained multiple injuries and almost died when his jacket got caught in a tractor PTO (power take off shaft), pulling him into the tractor and twisting him through.”
As indicated by Holman’s personal examples, farming accidents can be brutal – and avoiding them is paramount to a high-functioning and well-run farm. While the total number of agricultural fatalities has decreased in recent years, the risks remain the same and the chance of injury or death have not gone away.
It’s not just equipment farmers need to be cautious about, Holman points out. “As far as animals, no matter how well you think you know them, they are unpredictable,” she warns.
It is important to dress for safety as well. “Never wear loose-fitting clothing near moving machinery, such as a tractor PTO, a circular saw, a grinder, chainsaw, etcetera,” she says.
Before doing a new task, it’s a good idea to do some research, she says. “Talk to people with experience, Google information, watch YouTube videos, join Facebook groups related to that activity,” she advises.
“And while it may not always possible, it is best to work with a partner,” she says. “Or at least someone else on the farm working nearby.”
According to a fact sheet offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are key factors to watch for when seeking high safety standards on a farm.
“Contrary to the popular image of fresh air and peaceful surroundings, a farm is not a hazard-free work setting,” OSHA’s site says. “Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured, and hundreds more die in farming accidents. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation.”
Health and Safety Hazards on Farms
Farm workers—including farm families and migrant workers—are exposed to such hazards a as the following: chemicals/pesticides, cold, dust, electricity, grain bins, hand tools, highway traffic, lifting, livestock handling, machinery equipment, manure pits, mud, noise, ponds, silos, slips/trips/falls, sun and heat, toxic gases, tractors, and wells.
High Risk Hazards on Farms
Some factors that may increase risk of injury or illness for farm workers include:
- Age: Injury rates are highest among children 15 and under, and adults over age 65.
- Equipment and Machinery: Most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery. Proper machine guarding and doing equipment maintenance according to manufacturer’s recommendations can help prevent accidents.
- Protective equipment: Using protective equipment, such as seat belts on tractors and personal, protective equipment – such as safety gloves, coveralls, boots, hats, aprons and goggles or face shields could significantly lower incidences of farming injuries.
- Medical Care: Hospitals and emergency medical care are typically not readily available in rural areas near farms.
To learn more about how to avoid the hazards and promote safety on your farm, check the following resources:
by MARY TOOTHMAN