The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranks farming as the sixth most dangerous occupation in America, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 417 farmers and farm worker fatalities happened in 2016.
While farm safety should always be a top priority, as fall harvest gets underway, Michigan Farm Bureau is reminding farmers and their rural neighbors to stop long enough and think about minimizing risks and exposure to avoid becoming another statistic.
We are also in the midst of National Farm Safety and Health Week, which takes place from Sept. 16 to 22.
“Over the next several months, farmers will be working longer hours — starting their days before sunrise without resting until long after sunset, meaning fatigue will become a much bigger factor in staying safe,” said Craig Anderson, Michigan Farm Bureau’s Ag Labor & Safety Services Manager. “Compound those long hours with moving tractors, combines, grain carts, grain augers and grain bins – it creates numerous opportunities for agriculture work-related injuries, or worse yet — fatalities.”
Fall harvest is also prime-time for road-related accidents, said Anderson, with many of today’s large harvest and tillage-related farm equipment often moving slowly — making it difficult for motorists to know how to behave when sharing the road.
Safety video resources for sharing
Monsanto Company’s Off-the-Job Safety efforts focus on remaining safe 24/7. The Off-the-Job Safety program was created to help employees, their friends and families, rural communities and customers. Here are just three videos in a series, posted to YouTube for viewing and sharing with family members, employees and co-workers:
Grain Bin Safety Basics: Fifteen to 20 grain bin entrapments are documented each year. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety’s (NECAS) Dan Neenan discusses how grain bin entrapments can be prevented and how quickly these dangerous events could occur.
Practicing Tractor Safety: A farmer shares the details of a near-fatal tractor rollover accident. Bill Field from Purdue University shares tips to help avoid these types of incidents.
PTO Safety Reminders: Steve Wettschurack, Agricultural Emergency Response specialist, recounts a tragic accident involving a grower caught in his tractor’s power take off. Dan Neenan, National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) director, also discusses the practical and simple safety best practices farmers to prevent PTO accidents.
Safety tips for farmers
To make sure you, your family and employees don’t become another farm safety statistic, follow these safety tips.
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 minimize accidents. Consider retrofitting older equipment to reduce rollover injury and fatalities.
2. 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 in addition to the SMV to draw attention to the tractor’s slow speed.
3. Have a plan for grain bin safety. When entry is absolutely necessary, train workers on grain storage hazards and risks involved. 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. There should always be a person outside the bin during any entry.
4. 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. Know where you are at!
5. 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, dehydration or heat/cold stress sets in.
6. 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.
7. 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.