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STAY SAFE: With spring comes planting season. Be aware of health and safety risks on the farm and safeguard yourself and farmworkers.

Remember, sometimes there are no ‘do-overs’

Farming is a dangerous business; play it safe from the start.

Age 16. It’s an age most youth can’t wait to reach. For me, it signified a whole new level of anxiety.

My daughters, now in their 20s, are both great drivers. But back then, it was the unknown, the fear of something going wrong and the dread of not being able to protect them that had me checking the clock and jumping to action when the phone rang.

As children, when they got into trouble for being naughty, they were grounded and had certain possessions removed. However, I usually provided an opportunity to lessen the punitive sentence through what I called a “do-over.” It was a chance to correct what they did wrong. If that wasn’t possible, they were assigned extra tasks to complete. It never abolished the punishment entirely, but it eased the sting.

So, when they became road-worthy, I made it a point to engrain in their minds that there were no do-overs when behind the wheel going 70 mph.

I warned them not to have a lapse in judgment, be distracted or go too fast for the conditions, and to always look out for other drivers. I sternly pointed out that highway driving is high risk, and mistakes don’t usually produce just a fender bender.

Preventing accidents

We call them accidents, but are they really? Many accidents could have been prevented. If only something would have been done differently, it might have produced a much different outcome. Someone might still be alive, and the lives of loved ones unscarred.

So, as you prepare for “go time” this spring, remember that your farming job is much like the highway — it’s high risk.

No one wakes up thinking, “I’m going to die in an accident today.” You should, however, wake up knowing that you could die today. As grim as that sounds, it’s a reality documented by missing arms, fingers and worse. Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that there were 417 farmers and farmworker fatalities in 2016. Michigan agriculture accounted for 19 of those work-related fatalities, according to Michigan State University’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, representing 11.7% of the total 162 work-related deaths in the state in 2016 — a rate of 22.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.  

Those statistics make agriculture second only to construction in the number of work-related deaths, which represented 40 deaths and the highest risk of 25.7 deaths per 100,000 workers.

So, please be aware of the potential danger in your movements. Don’t be distracted or hurried, and always look out for others. Oftentimes in farming, there are no do-overs.

How you can improve farm safety

Start by increasing your awareness of farming hazards and make a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations.

If you’re planning on digging, remember it’s the law to first call 811 or visit missdig.org three days in advance.

Also, the National Farmers Union offers a brochure at nfu.org/farmsafety that highlights dangerous situations on the farm regarding PTOs, rollovers, ATVs, grain bins and augers, livestock handling, transportation, chemical handling and electrical. 

Know the risks and what can be done to safeguard yourself, family members, farmworkers and visitors.

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