Farming is an extremely dangerous profession. It is the most hazardous field resulting in the most fatalities, according to 2017-2018 United States Department of Labor (DOL) findings. Three deadly farming accidents occurred in the last few months of 2019. In September, a young worker from South Dakota got trapped in a grain auger-conveyor and did not survive his injuries. A Minnesota mother died after being crushed under a bale of hay on November 16. Another farmer got his clothing caught in farm equipment and died in North Dakota on December 15, 2019.
Thankfully there are several steps farmers can take to mitigate injuries and prevent fatalities. Here are just a few.
Remember Roll Over Protection is a Must
According to Agweek, “The most prevalent cause of injuries and deaths in the agriculture sector, totaling 20% of all agriculture fatalities, was transportation, including tractor overturns, collisions and accidental pinning.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other government bodies have taken note of this disturbing trend, mandating that all tractor equipment manufactured after October 25, 1976 include a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) system.
The purpose of ROPS is to create a protective barrier for operators and farmers, should rollover accidents occur. Most use roll bars or roll cages coupled with a seat belt to prevent the farmer from being expelled from the tractor and crushed underneath it. Remember seat belts are necessary for these systems to work! Plus, as many as 10% of farmers will experience a toppled tractor or rollover incident, so it is best not to take any unnecessary risks. Old farm equipment can be retrofitted with new ROPS for optimal safety.
Take Precautions When Using Grain Bins and Augers
Getting trapped inside grain bins and suffocating or pinned under bales of hay is all too common. Prevent unnecessary deaths by carefully maintaining the grain flowing within these systems. Old or untended grain my clump, cone, or bridge, ultimately clogging equipment and causing it to overflow. This overflow increases the chances of farmers and farm employees being sucked into these mechanisms and being unable to pull themselves out. Maintain grain and augers, always use the buddy or lifeline system when operating these machines, and use proper lock-out, tag-out procedures to keep injuries and deaths to a minimum.
Wear Appropriate Safety Gear
Long hours on the farm can make workers complacent. Remember eye protection, hearing protection, and respirators are necessary precautions. Without ear protection, farmers risk deafness and hearing loss. Eye protection keeps farmers safe from stray particles, drilling and grinding, and harsh chemicals. Respirators promote oxygen efficiency and air breath-ability and prevent the ingestion of dangerous gases, chemicals, and vapors.
Write An Emergency Plan
Draft an emergency plan and review it with farm workers, as well as any children who may visit the farm. The emergency plan should include directions to the nearest hospital and emergency numbers. Keep the farm address and nearby roads right next to the phone–or, in the age of smartphones, in a designated spot everyone knows about–as well. If you need emergency help, 911 operators will ask for the address and knowing nearby streets and landmarks may help. Keep first aid materials handy, and make sure workers know where they are and how to use them.
Invest In Agribusiness Insurance
Finally, accidents happen. Eighty-four percent of Americans agree life insurance is a must. For farmers, farm insurance or farmers insurance, ranch insurance, and agribusiness insurance is just as necessary. It is important to favor agribusiness insurance with liability and property insurance coverage plans. These plans cover worker’s compensation costs and help mitigate expenses should an accident occur and employees are injured on the job. Most carriers also offer risk assessment management tools to help you make the most of your coverage and your plan.
Farming is dangerous. Stay safe and keep employees safe with ROPS, grain bin and auger precautions, appropriate safety gear, an emergency plan, and proper agribusiness insurance coverage.