There are many changes in agriculture to note over time, including the landscape of laborors and decline in number of farm operations. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 2.05 million farms operated in 2017, averaging 444 acres per farm. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were also about 2.05 million full-time farm workers in 2017. That number nearly doubles when adding in seasonal crop workers. Those numbers coincide with both an aging workforce and increase in the number of women farmworkers.
However, as the CDC also reports, with an estimated 58,000 adult injuries a year, farm work continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. In fact, farming is the 6th most dangerous occupation in America.
During National Farm Safety and Health Week, COUNTRY Financial® is urging farmers to make safety their number one priority take extra care of their health both inside and outside of the tractor and - all year long.
Farming accidents aren’t only caused by errors in operating farm equipment. “There are several factors that cause accidents on the farm – sleep and nutrition being a large factor,” says Eric Vanasdale, Loss Control Supervisor for COUNTRY Financial. “Teaching farmers how to take care of themselves out in the fields is just as important as teaching them how to take care of themselves away from the fields.”
Over the next few months, farmers will be working longer hours—starting their days before sunrise without resting until long after sunset. There will be moving tractors, planters and tillage equipment that are often oversized and slow-moving—making it difficult for drivers to know how to behave when sharing the road. To ensure you or your favorite farmer are safe all year long, follow these simple steps toward farm safety.
1. Maintain your equipment. Most farm accidents and deaths involve outdated machinery that lack safety features. Make sure your equipment is maintained according to the manufacturers’ recommendations to prevent tractor rollovers and accidents.
2. Make sure you understand how to safely handle the chemicals you use. Keep chemicals in their original, marked containers. Make sure everyone working on your farm is trained in safely handling them and understands emergency procedures.
3. Be Alert on the Road. Most accidents happen at dawn or dusk, as they are peak commuting times for drivers. They occur most often when a driver attempts to pass a slow-moving vehicle, or does not realize a farmer is turning or stopping. Watch out for other vehicles on the road and use flashing lights to draw attention to the tractor’s slow speed.
4. Have a plan for grain bin safety when entry is absolutely necessary. Train workers on grain storage hazards and risks involved with entering a grain storage bin. Follow safe bin entry practices like Lock Out Tag Out and utilizing a lifeline system. Have an emergency action plan in case an accident occurs and make sure everyone on your farm is trained to follow it.
5. Tell family and helping hands where you will be working and when. Keep the lines of communication open. Also, always have a cell phone or walkie-talkie on you in case of emergencies or accidents.
6. Get plenty of rest and take frequent breaks. Drink plenty of fluids and have healthy snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up. Do not push yourself past healthy limits. Accidents are more likely to happen once fatigue sets in.
7. Familiarize yourself with how your prescriptions and over the counter medications affect you. Some medications and machinery do not mix. Consult your doctor if your medications impair your ability to safely operate your equipment.