An important September observance in the United States is National Farm Safety Week, sponsored by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.  Working in the agricultural field ranks among the most hazardous industries in our country.  Farmers and family members who work side by side are at high risk for fatal and non-fatal injuries.  Most farmers have made their living by working the soil generation after generation.  They are aware of the hazards their occupation presents.  Accidents happen, though, and we want to share with you some of the things that might happen on a farm or ranch. 

Every day, approximately 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-time injuries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH).  Young people are particularly susceptible to injury, if precautions are not taken.  Many young persons are injured by machinery (including tractors) and motor vehicles (including ATV’s).  

  • PTO’s (power take-off) devices are extremely dangerous to workers, especially children.  These are pieces of farm equipment, such as augers, that are attached to tractors.  They rotate at 540 to 1,000 revolutions per minute.  Loose clothing could get caught in one of these, and there is simply no time to get out of this situation without serious injury.  
  • Tractors should be equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS.)  There should not be extra riders on tractors or other farm equipment.  The person driving the tractor should always use handholds and care when getting on or off the tractor; slips and falls cause injuries.  A friend of ours who has farmed all of his life fell off his tractor one day, breaking his collarbone.  
  • ATV’s are very popular on farms and ranches; they are designed for a single rider.  There is a risk of overturn when riding an ATV.  Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when operating machinery, such as a helmet when riding an ATV. 
  • Animals present certain obstacles, as most farmers and ranchers will tell you.  Avoid quick movements and loud noises when working with animals.  One should know their characteristics.  Movement in an animal’s blind spots may startle it.  Be sure there is a quick escape if you go inside an animal pen.  The same goes for having a good escape route when working with animals in close quarters, such as chutes and stalls. 
  • Hired farm workers should be aware of farm safety; they should have training and direct communication to ensure that they understand what they are expected to do.  Direct supervision when they are performing dangerous duties, particularly when the worker is new to the job.  Be sure there are no language barriers limiting the effectiveness of training or supervision. 

There are many other obstacles included in farm work.  Pesticide exposure could cause pulmonary disease.  Hearing loss from operating loud equipment over a long period of time, stress, and musculoskeletal disorders may result from this occupation.  The use of personal protective equipment is important when working outdoors.  Safety sunglasses, good work gloves, and respirators for working in dry, dusty environments are just part of the necessary protective measures to use. One never knows when that first aid kit will be needed, either. 

As always, we salute those who work in the agricultural field.  Without them, we’d be pretty hungry!  We wish for safety for all of them; and empathize with those who have lost their crops this year due to drought, flooding, wildfires, or other natural disasters.