Fall is a busy time of year with an increase in farm activities that can lead to injuries. Those facts are clear. Agriculture remains the most dangerous industry in the U.S., based on deaths per 100,000 workers.
This year’s National Farm Safety and Health Week theme is “Every farmer counts.” It’s important for every farmer to use his or her personal safety skills to make this year’s harvest the safest one on record.
“Regardless of the external pressures of time, weather and stress, it’s best to always choose safety first,” says Charles Schwab, Iowa State University professor of ag engineering and Extension farm safety specialist.
This year perhaps more than any other year, farmers, farmworkers and family members need to use extra caution during harvest season. “Our medical community and first responders are already strained and extremely busy dealing with the pandemic,” he notes. “Every farmer counts while trying to make this year’s harvest safer.”
Be aware of personal safety
“Miscommunication or misunderstandings can place coworkers and yourself at risk of serious injuries,” Schwab says. “Common tasks like hitching grain wagons to tractors and more complex operations like unloading combines on the move, demand effective communications. Include safety in your explanations of tasks that will be performed and listen carefully to those working with you.”
Also, monitor the signals from your body. “During long work activities, it’s important to keep your body working at optimal conditions,” he adds. “Keeping hydrated, nourished and alert are essential for your personal safety efforts. When your body signals are ignored, your mind’s effectiveness to avoid injuries is diminished. Loss of observational power, reduced attention span and weakened critical thinking skills put you in potentially hazardous conditions that could have been avoided.”
Making a safe decision is paramount during harvest, Schwab says. “So often a person who has been injured shares that the safe course of action was used multiple times before, but then the one time it wasn’t used, the injury occurred.”
Supervise young helpers
This fall with the pandemic, children and high schoolers are spending more time at home helping on the farm. “Take time to explain safety warnings to your young helpers,” Schwab says.
Farm vehicles such as tractors and all-terrain vehicles cause many injuries. “Wearing a seat belt and helmet can prevent head injuries and death,” he adds. “Children should be supervised and given only age-appropriate tasks and age-appropriate access to vehicles and farm machinery.”