Since 1944, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week and proclaimed such by each successive U.S. President. In his Proclamation this week, President Obama encouraged communities “to remember agricultural workers' needs in setting up health facilities and emergency response programs” and “to strengthen their commitment to promoting farm safety and health programs.”
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that agriculture continues to have the highest fatality rate of all industries. More than 2 million people are employed on farms in the United States. There were 475 fatalities reported in 2012. In addition to deaths, farming accidents account for a large percentage of non-fatal injuries. In 2011, 48,300 injuries were recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That renders the injury rate for agricultural workers over 40% higher than the overall injury rate for all workers. Approximately 243 farm workers suffer a serious lost-work-time injury every day. Five percent of those injuries result in permanent impairment. It is also believed that farm injuries are largely underreported.
Farms pose all kinds of job hazards. Animals, equipment, grain handling, and exposure are just a few of the common threats.
- Tractors are involved in a high percentage of farm fatalities and severe injuries. Many other types of machinery also contribute. All sorts of blades, augers, conveyers, grinders, and welders are used daily by farm workers.
- Grain bins and silos pose many dangers. “Record numbers of deaths and injuries in 2010 led OSHA to develop a Program focusing on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards including: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, ‘struck by,’ combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.”
- Encounters with animals account for many accidents. Common injuries involve being kicked, thrown, trampled, or gored. Being caught in ropes, stirrups, or a saddle are also frequent mechanisms of injury.
- Much of the work done on farms is done outside. Not only does this expose the farmer to the elements including extreme temperatures and storms of all kinds; there are numerous other sources of exposure including machinery emissions, animal waste, and various chemicals/pesticides.
- The farming environment also poses many safety hazards for caregivers. Extrication can often be complex and dangerous. Much has been done in recent years to educate rescuers on the unique and complex situations they may encounter on farms. For additional information on the specialized training available for both farm workers and rescuers, please see the references below.
Safety Materials and Training information for farmers and rescue workers:
- International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health