ASSE Urges Farm Workers to Use Safety Programs/Precautions Now to Reduce Injuries and Illnesses
With the harvest season drawing near and National Farm Safety and Health Week this September 18-25, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) safety and health tips for agriculture workers and employers are aimed at helping prevent injuries and illnesses. ASSE is also concerned about protecting young farmers, who are at a higher risk of being injured on the job.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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. The leading cause of fatal farm injuries was tractor overturns, which accounted for more than 90 deaths annually.
ASSE Agriculture Practice Specialty Chair and President of the Chesapeake Chapter of ASSE, Mike Wolf, stated, “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. 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.”
Rollover protection structures (ROPS) are key for reducing risk when it comes to tractor fatalities. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) supports the theory 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 structures can be retrofitted onto older tractors to increase safety of such machines. Many companies provide engineer-certified ROPS for purchase and installation.
There is also a set of hazards associated with grain handling in the agricultural industry. Grain handling is one of the highest hazard elements of farming and workers can be exposed to risks such as fires, explosions, suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls and crushing or amputation injuries from grain handling equipment. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in 2010, 51 workers were engulfed by grain storage in bins and 26 of those trapped died. It is critical that all workers in grain handling areas are aware of the hazards associated with moving grain and grain dust, and have the tools needed to stay safe on-the-job. For more information about grain handling safety, please visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html.
Electrical safety is another major hazard on farms. 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. Check to make sure wires have not been affected by mice or other animals and carefully examine all connections. Partially destructed wires can cause electrical shorts and potentially fatal electrical hazards. Additionally, workers should be aware of the height of electrical lines and farm equipment, as many dump bed trucks, wagons, loaders and more can contact electrical lines, causing fatal accidents.
Most farms do not fall under the auspices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules and regulations. Hence, ASSE urges farmers to train workers, including young farmers, in all aspects of farming and safety. Most of the fatal incidents involving fatal injuries to youth on U.S. farms include machinery, motor vehicles and drowning. 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 youth 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. To prevent injuries, young farmers can enroll in a local farm safety camp, often sponsored by the local County Extension Service, a university or Farm Bureau.
To learn more information about agricultural safety and health and to view ASSE’s farm safety facts for rural areas, farm safety and health tips and farm safety tips for young workers, visit http://www.asse.org/newsroom/safetytips/farmsafetytips.php. For more information about ASSE’s Practice Specialty Agricultural Branch, visit www.asse.org/practicespecialties/ag-safety. For additional tips and statistics on fatalities, injuries and illnesses in the agriculture industry, please visit the CDC’s agricultural safety page at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/.
Founded in 1911 and celebrating its centennial, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, healthcare and education. For more information, please go to www.asse.org and to view the new ASSE – A Century of Safety film go to www.asse.org/assecenturyofsafety.