ASSE Releases Farm Safety, Health Tips

“Installing rollover protection on tractors and ensuring all farm workers and children are educated on farm safety practices is critical to reducing farm-related fatalities," said ASSE Agriculture Branch Chair Mike Wolf.

As part of Agriculture Safety Awareness Week, ASSE is offering agriculture safety and health guidance.

“Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S. Farming is the only industry that regularly has young workers and children present, and it is critical that everyone working in or around farms is aware of the risks, hazards, and ways to avoid injury and illness in these types of settings,” said ASSE Agriculture Branch Chair and President of the Chesapeake Chapter Mike Wolf, CSP. “Installing rollover protection on tractors and ensuring all farm workers and children are educated on farm safety practices is critical to reducing farm-related fatalities.”

According to CDC, in 2009, approximately 1,783,000 full-time workers were employed in the agriculture industry in the U.S. During the same year, 440 farmers and farm workers died from work-related injuries, resulting in a fatality rate of 24.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Each day, approximately 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-time injuries, with five percent of these resulting in permanent impairments, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The leading cause of fatal farm injuries was tractor overturns, which accounts for more than 90 deaths annually.

Rollover protection structures (ROPS) are important to reducing risk when it comes to tractor fatalities, Wolf said. NIOSH states that ROPS and proper seatbelt use on tractors can help eliminate fatalities by reducing risk of being thrown from the tractor or crushed in a rollover incident. ROPS can be retrofitted onto older tractors to increase safety of such machines. Many companies provide engineer-certified ROPS for purchase and installation.

ASSE urges farmers to train workers, including young farmers, in all aspects of farming risks and safety. Machinery, motor vehicles, and drowning were the causes of most of the fatal incidents involving children on U.S. farms and ranches. In 2009, an estimated 16,100 children and adolescents were injured on farms, with 3,400 of these injuries due to farm work. On average, 113 workers less than 20 years of age die annually from farm-related injuries, with most of these deaths occurring among youth 16-19 years of age.

A major agriculture safety risk, according to OSHA, is grain handling. Workers can be exposed to risks such as fires and explosions, suffocate from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls, and crushing or amputation injuries from grain handling equipment. In 2010, 51 workers were engulfed by grain storage bins and 26 of those trapped lost their lives. This type of tragedy can occur when workers walk on moving grain, which acts like quicksand according to OSHA, or when they attempt to clear grain bins. Moving grain can bury a worker in seconds. Grain dust explosions are also a high-risk element of working with grain as it is combustible and will burn or explode if exposed to an ignition source.

Electrical safety is another major hazard on farms, noted Wolf. Regular electrical inspections are necessary to prevent accidents due to malfunctioning or old electrical equipment. Harvest season is the best time to inspect all machinery and electrical equipment, including clearing outlets, lighting, electrical panels, and equipment from obstructions or debris. One should check to make sure wires have not been damaged by mice or other animals and carefully examine all connections.

Click here to read more farm safety tips.

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