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Corn+Soybean Digest

Responding to Harvest Accidents

Keeping some safety points in mind can make it easier to respond if you're ever on the scene of a farm accident, a South Dakota State University specialist said.

"Knowing what to do and taking immediate action when an accident happens may reduce the extent an injury may affect a victim," SDSU Extension Farm Safety Specialist Dick Nicolai said.

Your goal as the first person on the scene is to keep the victim alive until emergency medical services (EMS) arrive, Nicolai said. Understanding CPR and first aid for farm accident victims will improve their chances for survival. All family members and full-time farm workers should receive first aid and CPR training.

When you discover a farm accident, Nicolai said, take the following steps in this order:

  1. Get professional help to the accident scene,
  2. Assure that the victim and yourself are not in further danger,
  3. Provide patient care.
  4. Getting professional help usually means calling the local EMS. If no phone is available, contact a neighbor, flag down a passing motorist, call on a two-way radio, or send an available second person to contact EMS. The sooner the victim receives advanced medical care, usually the better.

    "There may be situations where timing is crucial because the victim may not be breathing or may be bleeding severely. You may be able to prevent death or permanent brain damage if you administer CPR or first aid before leaving to call EMS," he added.

    Your safety must be the primary concern while approaching the accident scene. Controlling hazards at the scene that could harm you or cause further harm to the victim is the second action you should take. Typical hazards include uncontrolled movement of machinery, fire and explosions, spills of hot liquids or chemicals, exposure to electrical current or toxic fumes. Guidelines for stabilizing specific types of emergency scenes are provided in publication First on the Scene, NRAES-12, obtained from MidWest Plan Service (MWPS) Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

    The first step in providing patient care is to determine whether the victim is conscious. If the victim is responsive, you can assume that the victim is breathing and has effective heart action. Then you should determine whether arterial bleeding is occurring and control the bleeding. If the victim does not respond and is not breathing, administer CPR.

    Many victims are discovered by family members or farm workers who must be able to stay calm and act quickly and effectively to save the victim without injuring themselves.

    "The ability to make the right decisions when a farm accident is discovered depends on whether you, the first person on the scene, have knowledge in assessing farm accident scenes and first aid," Nicolai said.

    Additional information can also be found in Farm Accident Rescue, NRAES-10, available from MidWest Plan Service. The publication can be ordered through the publication catalog found on the MWPS Web site,

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