Farm Progress

Agriculture accounted for one-third of the workplace fatalities in the state in 2014.

Paula Mohr, Editor, The Farmer

February 14, 2017

6 Min Read
SAFETY FIRST: Beefing up farm safety programs and outreach are just two recommendations offered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a new report on farm safety.

A Minnesota Department of Agriculture report requested by the 2016 state Legislature offers several recommendations for improving on-farm safety.

The report was presented before the House Ag Policy Committee last week.

MDA was charged with analyzing and reporting on Minnesota’s farm safety challenges, including common causes of farm-related accidents, and for offering recommendations to improve farm safety and associated programs. Although only about 2% of Minnesota’s workforce is engaged in agriculture, it accounted for more than 30% of workplace fatalities in the state in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Based on its research, MDA recommends the following:

• Continue the Roll Over Protective Structure rebate program and explore the expansion of rebates to other farm safety equipment. The success of the 2016 ROPS Rebate program indicates there is a need by and a willingness of farmers to improve safety on their farms, as long as the changes can be made in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

• Re-establish the statewide University of Minnesota Extension farm safety faculty position. This research and outreach person was key to developing and delivering farm safety programs in the 1990s and 2000s, and would serve as a key link in connecting industry, government, and community in striving to improve farm safety throughout the state.

• Establish support for the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center. UMASH is a multidisciplinary collaboration of five research and health care institutions in the Upper Midwest, including the U-M School of Public Health, where the research center for rural health and safety resides. Its goal is to improve the safety and health of agricultural workers and families through research, education and prevention.

• Improve data collection about farm illnesses, injuries and fatalities. MDH investigated farm deaths until federal funding ended in 2006. Resuming this program would take advantage of MDH’s experience and expertise in identifying and investigating farm-related deaths, and could inform preventive efforts to promote farm safety. In 2014, MDH developed and pilot-tested a method to track injuries that might be related to agriculture using Minnesota hospital discharge data. This approach merits further evaluation, as it seeks to fill the absence of such data from state or national surveys.

• Promote the existing Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Workplace Safety Consultation Program to farmers. Staff conduct on-site visits that help employers identify potential hazards, improve safety management systems and apply for safety grants of up to $10,000. This voluntary program targets small, high-hazard businesses such as farms, and is separate from Minnesota OSHA compliance. DLI does not issue citations for violations it finds during one of these consultation visits — as long as the employer agrees to correct all serious hazards the consultant identifies.

• Create a Farm Safety Certification Program. Similar to the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program or the Certified Safe Farm programs in Iowa and North Carolina, this program would recognize farmers who either participate in a Minnesota DLI Workplace Safety Consultation, or in a similar audit designed for smaller operations. Certification would be voluntary and non-regulatory, but could possibly lead to lower health and insurance costs.

• Investigate financial incentives to increase farm safety measures. Approach insurance providers about lowering insurance premiums for farms certified by a Farm Safety Certification Program (similar to the reduction that older drivers receive for attending safe driving classes).

• Research and improve programs for a changing farm labor population. Develop and implement a community health worker program similar to the one tested in the UMASH project "Seguridad en las Lecherias: Immigrant Dairy Worker Health and Safety." Encourage community organizations such as the Latino Economic Development Center, Hmong American Farmers Association, and the United Food & Commercial Workers to identify workers’ needs and develop culturally appropriate materials, training and other support.

• Encourage and support programs offered by allied industries and organizations. Use established links with farmers to build farm safety into the interactions they are already having with farm advisers like farm business management instructors, veterinarians, extension educators, salespeople and others. Consider a pilot program with these trusted sources to do mini-audits for farm safety when on the farm, similar to those done by WSC or CSF.

• Promote existing training programs and expand educational opportunities for 4-H, FFA and beginning farmer education programs. Promote current safety training programs and increase support for including farm safety in youth education, focusing on the personal and economic impacts of farm accidents.
• Create a coordinated media campaign. Raise awareness of the impacts of farm accidents and the educational and financial resources available to initiate farm safety strategies. Find ways to connect with farmers in a method that is more urgent and personalized in order to save lives.
• Continue the Farm Safety Working Group. This group has proven to be an effective way to coordinate work and resources, and to monitor the impacts of these farm safety initiatives in Minnesota.

According to the report, from 2011 to 2014, 78 Minnesotans engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing died of workplace-related illnesses or injuries — nearly 40% more than the next most dangerous industry, construction, based on numbers from the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry. According to a Star Tribune story in 2015, reporters identified 210 farming-related deaths between 2003 and 2013.

Researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health recently found that costs of injury and illness in the agricultural sector ranged between $21 million and $31 million annually, mostly attributed to indirect costs such as lost productivity at work.

Source: MDA’s Status of Farm Safety in Minnesota report


Grain safety webinar 'Seconds to Tragedy' features new video, curriculum Feb. 22

Tragedy is just seconds away when inside grain bins and other grain storage facilities. That’s how long it takes to become fatally engulfed.

Join presenter Marsha Salzwedel at 3 p.m. Feb. 22 for an AgriSafe Network webinar exploring grain safety strategies. The webinar will incorporate a new video by the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, “Seconds to Tragedy: Grain Safety for Young Workers,” in which survivors of a fatal incident relate, in heartbreaking detail, what happens when safety is ignored.

“We will explain how the video, along with a discussion sheet, can be used as a training tool, both for high school agricultural teachers and for community training,” says Salzwedel, a youth agricultural safety specialist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. “These video materials complement the coalition’s Stand TALL curriculum, which can be used to expand on the concepts and safety strategies introduced in the video.”

The newly expanded Stand TALL (talk, ask, learn, live) curriculum consists of three modules, including two new modules introduced in this webinar. The curriculum can be used to educate and empower young workers with safety strategies for working in ag settings. The video and three modules can be used as stand-alone training components or combined for a comprehensive safety program, says Salzwedel, who led development of the GHSC curriculum and also participated in development of the video as a writer and assistant director.

The webinar is free, but attendees must register. Register here

The Grain Handling Safety Coalition is a volunteer group comprised of individuals, organizations and agencies with connections to the grain and agricultural industries. It is dedicated to preventing accidents, injuries and fatalities in grain handling operations on the farm and at the elevator. The National Children’s Center, part of Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, Wis., is a member organization of the GHSC.

View the YouTube video here here.


About the Author(s)

Paula Mohr

Editor, The Farmer

Mohr is former editor of The Farmer.

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