In the last couple of weeks, I've learned of two growers I know having some fairly substantial accidents that will definitely set them back physically this harvest season. My ardent plea is, please be safe out there.
While both growers will be fine, and it seems both accidents were purely freak occurrences, it does pay to be more cognizant and diligent around farm equipment — that means everyone in the rural environment.
Agriculture ranks as one of the industries with highest risk for injuries, as anyone who has changed out planter blades or even jumped a ditch can tell you, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The fatality rate, according to the CDC, is 20.4 deaths per 100,000 farm workers. In 2017, 416 farmers or farm workers died from on-the-job injuries. Daily, approximately 100 farm workers sustain loss-of-work-time injuries.
While about 50% of injuries on the farm are sprains or strains, many are much worse. And, most could have been prevented.
The downtime from accidents also causes revenue loss and added expense.
It's not just the obvious things that cause injury — jutting ball hitches, PTOs, blades, chemical spills, hay hooks, etc. — the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health compiles studies of pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal disorders, hearing loss and stress as factors in loss of agricultural work time.
As a farm kid, I am well aware of how quickly and unexpectedly an injury can occur. I was once pinned to the ground by a cultivator. Another time I hit a high voltage powerline with a Caterpillar and ran for my life. That's just two in a lifetime of close calls. I survived fairly unscathed, but both incidents could have been avoided if I was paying attention to what I was doing.
Our farm was adjacent to a university farm and we were easily able to take advantage of the safety training they offered. Farm safety videos are graphic. I never need to see another one to be reminded of what can happen when you're not paying attention, but training reminders are helpful and build awareness.
Many organizations offer farm safety training. Agricenter International in Memphis offers the online Farm Safe program, a free program funded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Many state Extension services offer safety training or safety fairs. Participation is well-worth the effort.
I follow a lot of agricultural social media pages and the other day someone posted a photo of a twist of clothes — jeans, a t-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt — wrapped around a PTO. It stripped everything from the farmer's body. He sustained a broken arm and some broken ribs. It could have been a lot worse.
Stay safe out there, whether you're driving a combine, moving some hay or driving up behind a tractor moving down the road. We need our farmers healthy and intact.