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Noting Increase in Farming Fatalities, American Society of Safety Engineers Urge Workers to Use Safety Programs/Precautions Now

Posted in on Mon, Aug 31, 2009

Des Plaines, IL (August 31, 2009) — With the growing season in full swing and the recent release of fatal work injury statistics showing an upward spiral in the farming industry, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) encourages safety, health and environmental professionals to become active in assisting agricultural producers and businesses in their area to take steps to prevent deadly agricultural injuries and illnesses. To assist in this effort, ASSE is providing work safety tips to help prevent the growing number of tragic agricultural industry worker injuries and illnesses. ASSE also suggests safety tips aimed at protecting young farmers, who face a greater risk of being injured

Workplace fatalities in the farming industry rose by 11 percent in 2008 to a total of 651 deaths in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The increase was led by worker deaths in crop production, which rose 18 percent in 2008. Most farm-related traumatic injuries are caused by machinery, with tractor accidents next — accounting for a high rate of fatalities. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), from 1992 to 2007 more than 8,000 farm workers died from work-related injuries in the U.S., with tractor overturn deaths accounting for an average of 96 deaths annually.

In addition, about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-work-time injuries every day, and about five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment. Agriculture is also one of the most dangerous industries for young workers and it is one of the few industries where families are at risk of fatalities or injuries as they often share the work and live on the farm.

As most farms do not fall under the auspices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules and regulations, ASSE urges farmers to train all workers including young farmers well in all aspects of farming, including safety. Children are at special risk from farm-related accidents. Most of the 100¬ plus deaths among children on farms result from being innocent bystanders or passengers on farm equipment. Surveys indicate that many farm children are working in dangerous environments by the age of 10. Young farmers can enroll in a local farm safety camp, often sponsored by the local County Extension Service, a university, or Farm Bureau, which helps them recognize and learn how to address on-the-job hazards

ASSE established a new Agricultural Branch as part of the ASSE Environmental Practice Specialty, to provide a forum for safety, health and environmental professionals in the agricultural industry aimed at discussing risks and addressing solutions in this industry It will provide a venue to network and gain knowledge regarding best practices in safety and health issues affecting agricultural production operations of all sizes; including seed production, agricultural chemicals, transportation, equipment safety, compliance and enforcement.
“Valuing safety, regardless of the weather, time schedule, commodity markets or economy is an important message to communicate to agricultural workers,” said ASSE Director of Member/Region Affairs and agricultural safety specialist Terry Wilkinson, PhD, CSP, CAE. “Agricultural producers, most without a safety, health and environmental professional on their workforce, are encouraged to seek out safety professionals in their area for assistance.

“Too many farm family members and hired workers are getting hurt and dying on farms,” added Wilkinson. “Following simple farm safety tips to protect farm family members and children as well as hired workers on farms can prevent many farm-related injuries and illnesses, and enhance safety. A combined effort by the safety professionals and agricultural community can lead the industry into a new direction to prevent future traumatic injuries and illnesses.”

ASSE offers these safety tips:
o Develop an awareness of hazards on the farm and prepare for emergency situations including machinery entanglements, fires, vehicle collisions, electrical shocks from equipment, and adverse health effects from chemical exposures.
o Reduce the risk of injury and illness with preventive measures. Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals. Follow instructions on product labels for safe use, handling, and storage.
o Conduct routine inspections of your equipment to determine problems and potential failures that may contribute to or cause an injury. Properly maintain tools, buildings, and equipment.
o Conduct meetings with employees and family members to assess safety hazards, discuss potential accident situations, and outline emergency procedures.
o Provide approved rollover protective structures (ROPS). ROPS are compartment structures (usually cabs or frames) intended to protect equipment operators from injuries caused by vehicle overturns. Use seat belts while the tractor is in operation on tractors equipped with a ROPS.
o Make sure guards for farm equipment are put back on after maintenance to protect workers from moving machinery parts. Also, keep all equipment at least 20 feet from any overhead power lines or wires that support poles.
o Review material safety data sheets and labels that come with all chemical products.
o Communicate information concerning hazards to all workers. Prevent pesticide poisonings and dermatitis caused by chemicals by ensuring that protective measures recommended on the labels are taken.
o Take the necessary precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos, wagons and other storage structures.
o Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be present in manure pits in quantities sufficient to cause asphyxiation or explosion.
o Farmers are at great risk of contracting respiratory problems due to the amount of dust and chemicals they breathe in on a daily basis. Wearing protective equipment, which is readily available, can prevent acute and chronic respiratory illnesses. Protective equipment such as mechanical filters and chemical cartridge masks are air-purifying respirators that help protect lungs from harmful gases and dusts.
o Seek out local resources from ASSE Chapters, County Extension offices, Farm Bureau and health facilities focusing on the agricultural community.

For more information about agricultural safety and health and to view the downloadable ASSE farm safety facts for rural areas, farm safety and health tips, and farm safety tips for young workers visit

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 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, health care and education. For more information on this and to join the Agriculture Practice Specialty please go to

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