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January 19, 2024
Editor's note: For a Spanish version of this story, click "Download now" at the top or bottom of this page.
by Ellen Duysen
From autonomous and precision equipment to sophisticated data analytics, many farmers and ranchers have adopted new technologies that have significantly improved the efficiency and productivity of their operations.
There is no better time than now for you to consider employing innovative technologies designed to enhance the safety of your farm and ranch. Tools have been developed to reduce the risks associated with various aspects of agricultural work, including exposure to chemicals, mechanical injuries and adverse health effects.
While some technologies may require a significant investment — such as drones that can reduce chemical and physical exposures by monitoring fields and livestock — many practical, low-cost safety technologies, such as these listed below, exist:
Wearable technology. Wearable devices, such as smartwatches, helmets and vests, monitor your vital signs and environmental conditions. These devices can provide real-time data on factors such as temperature, humidity and fatigue, helping to prevent heat-related illnesses and overexertion.
These safety tools can be lifesaving if you have preexisting health conditions or work alone. Information can be sent from these devices directly to your phone or others.
Mobile apps. Mobile applications can be used for safety training and communication with other workers. These apps can provide information on proper equipment handling and hazards, emergency procedures, and updates on potential hazards in your area. Ask your equipment dealer to share apps designed specifically for your equipment.
Weather apps will alert you to adverse weather conditions in your area. Loud noise is always a concern in agriculture, contributing to more than 50% of farmers older than age 50 having hearing handicaps. The NIOSH Sound Level Meter App is a free application that can measure noise with the touch of a button and let you know when you need hearing protection.
Remote sensors. Sensors can monitor conditions on your farm and ranch. Sensors can detect gas leaks, fires or changes in environmental conditions, providing you with early warnings sent directly to your phone or computer.
Remote sensors can detect the buildup of hazardous gases in confinement facilities, providing lifesaving information.
Emergency response systems. Minutes matter to the outcome of a farm incident. GPS-enabled emergency response systems can quickly locate you in the event of an accident or injury. This technology ensures that help reaches you promptly.
Systems can be as inexpensive as purchasing an app for your smartphone that will alert emergency responders when activated, or you can enroll in a monitored emergency system for a more significant investment.
Predictive analytics. Using predictive analytics tools to analyze your operation's historical data and environmental conditions will help predict potential risks and allow you to address safety concerns and implement preventive measures proactively. This analysis is now quick and widely available. Work with your local Extension office or financial institution to assist you with this vital forecasting tool.
Combining these technologies can create a safer working environment for you and your family while improving overall farm efficiency. Safety always pays off.
Duysen is a research assistant professor at the UNMC College of Public Health and is coordinator of CS-CASH.
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