Living Well - WMHS Blog

Farm Safety and Awareness

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) promotes Farm Safety and Health Week every year during the third full week of September. The awareness campaign for 2018 starts on Sunday, September 16 and ends Saturday, September 22 with a theme of Cultivating the Seeds of Safety. Based in Peosta, Iowa, the organization recognizes the inherent danger in farming. It offers local and online training on multiple topics throughout the year, including the following:

  • Combine safety
  • Confined spaces
  • CPR
  • Hazardous materials
  • Rescue procedures for common farm accidents such as auger extraction, combine extraction, grain entrapment, manure pit rescues, and tractor rollovers
  • Respiratory protection
  • Tractor certification
  • Tractor rollover retrofit and protection

During the outreach campaign of 2018, NECAS will highlight these programs as well as how to overcome the financial consequences of illnesses, injuries, and safety violations. It will primarily focus on how to avoid serious injuries and deaths on the farm due to misuse of equipment and other unsafe work habits.

Who Are America’s Farmers?

In a report last updated in April 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) states that farming is one of the country’s most dangerous occupations. It is also unique in that family members, often representing two or three generations, live and work together on the same farming property. This leaves entire families vulnerable to serious injuries, illnesses, and loss of life.

The CDC estimates that slightly more than two million people held a full-time position in agriculture in 2017. Additionally, between 1.4 and 2.1 million people worked as temporary crop help on America’s farms each year. Nearly 900,000 young people under age 20 live on farms with approximately half of them completing regular work on the farm. Farmers also hire an additional 266,000 youth workers to help with crops and various other farming tasks every year.

Injuries and Fatality Statistics for Agriculture Workers

According to the CDC, 100 farm workers sustain injuries every day serious enough to cause them to miss work. At an incident rate of 50 percent, sprains and strains are the most commonly reported injury. Four years ago, one-third of youth farm injuries occurred when a young person was engaged in a farming duty. That’s 4,000 injuries related to farm work for the 12,000 reported youth farm injuries.

When it comes to fatalities, the CDC reports that 417 farm workers died in 2016, a rate of 21.4 deaths per 100,000 agriculture employees. The leading cause of death that year was tractor overturns. Farm workers either die as a result of being thrown from the tractor or the tractor pinning them underneath and making it impossible for them to free themselves.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tracks farm safety every year. The organization reports that the following accidents and illnesses occur with the greatest frequency:

  • Tractor overturns, as mentioned above
  • Fall from a grain bin, haymow, or ladder or sustaining an injury from a falling object
  • Machine entanglement, especially augers and shafts
  • Suffocation in a grain bin or silo
  • Injuries and fatalities caused by farm animals or weather conditions
  • Respiratory ailments such as Farmer’s Lung and Silo-Filler Disease
  • Ringworm

Improper use of farm equipment is a leading cause of agriculture accidents. However, they can also occur due to faulty equipment or improper instruction from the farm owner. If that has happened to you or a loved one, you may wish to consider legal action to recover compensation for your injuries and other losses. Regardless of how a farm accident occurs, the most important thing you can do is seek immediate medical attention at Western Maryland Health System (WMHS).

Farm Accident Prevention Strategies

The NECAS advises all farmers to create a detailed farm safety program and insists that anyone working on the farm follow it or face termination. You should provide training to your staff at least once a year or anytime you purchase new equipment or change a standard procedure. Be sure to establish a maintenance schedule for all farm equipment and stick with it even if the machines appear to be in perfect working order. Use protective equipment such as eye goggles, dust masks, ear protection, or whatever else the situation warrants.

It’s also important to consider the effect that agriculture stress has on farming accidents. The occupation can be a stressful and uncertain one filled with long hours of physical labor. This can unknowingly cause you or your farm workers to rush through your tasks to meet deadlines and get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time. Unfortunately, this is the very thing that increases the risk of a serious farm accident occurring. We encourage you and your staff to take frequent breaks throughout the day to keep your mind and body fresh for the work ahead.

All farm operators need a positive, proactive attitude to help avoid agricultural accidents. This means they never take chances, constantly watch for potential dangers, and don’t simply accept that accidents come with the territory in farming.

Whether you need emergency care from a farming accident or you’re concerned that you could have developed a work-related illness, Western Maryland Health System is able to provide the help or connect you to the resources you need.