Each year since 1944, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week. This recognition has been an annual promotion initiated by the National Safety Council and has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt signed the first document.
National Farm Safety and Health Week is Sept. 18-24. The theme this year is “Prepare. Prevent. Protect.”
Even though the rate of fatalities in farming has been declining in recent years, it is still one of the highest of any industry sector, according to data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2019, the latest data available from the Department of Labor shows farming is one of the most dangerous jobs in America with 410 fatalities, which equals 21.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. Transportation incidents, which include tractor overturns, were the leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers.
These figures are especially relevant during harvest season, as farmers are putting in long hours under the stress of weather delays and equipment breakdowns.
Many farm accidents are preventable. But what if there is an accident? Farm safety experts recommend the following:
- Shut off all unloading equipment.
- Call 911.
- Stop anyone from entering the scene until trained emergency personnel arrive.
- If the situation is a grain entrapment and the bin has an aeration blower, turn it on to increase the airflow through the bin to help the entrapped person breathe.
- Assemble equipment such as front-end loaders, shovels, plywood for cofferdams and portable augers for assistance with a rescue.
Bin entrapments are sad reminders that grain storage can be deadly. It takes only five seconds for a person to be caught in flowing grain, and less than 20 seconds to be sucked into the center of the grain, buried and suffocated, according to farm safety experts. A child can be buried in even less time.
If you find yourself trapped in grain, safety experts advise the following:
- Cup your hands around your mouth and nose to create an air pocket. This may give you enough time for someone to rescue you.
- Stay near the outer wall and keep moving. If necessary, you can walk until the bin is empty or the flow stops.
Since the 1930s, PTOs have helped farmers harness the power of tractor engines to drive a variety of implements. The tractor powers a shaft that spins at hundreds of revolutions per minute. But PTOs without a shield can grab clothing or hair and wrap it around its revolving shaft. Remember:
- Stop the PTO when dismounting from the tractor.
- Don’t let children ride on or near a tractor. They can be entangled in the PTO if they slip.
- Walk around tractors. Never step over a rotating shaft.
- Remove jewelry and earrings when working around PTOs.
- Always pull up long hair and braids when working around equipment. Put hair under a hat for best results.
- Don’t wear clothes with loose sleeves, frayed edges or drawstrings. Avoid long shoelaces.
- Keep safety shields and guards in place, even after repairs have been made.
- Stay clear of moving parts.
- Always shut off augers and machinery equipped with belt and chain drives and rotating pulleys.
This may all sound like commonsense advice that all of us who live or work on farms should know, but I have learned common sense isn’t all that common, especially when you are in a hurry or you just “forget.” Things can happen.
Slow down this harvest season and stay safe. The life you save may be your own!
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