The third week in September represents National Farm Safety & Health Week. This week corresponds well with the fall harvest season in Minnesota, and serves as a reminder to practice farm safety, throughout the year.
Although farm accidents have been reduced in recent years, they are still far too frequent and serious. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), agriculture ranks amongst the most hazardous industries.
Approximately 476 farmers and farm workers died from work-related injury in 2010. The leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers from 1992-2009 was tractor overturns. Approximately 243 agricultural workers lose work time due to an injury.
According to NIOSH, an average of 113 young people, under 20 years of age, die annually from farm-related injuries. The majority of those who die are youth between 16-19 years. The most common source of fatal injuries to youth is machinery (includes tractors), motor vehicles (includes ATVs), followed by drowning. In 2009, 16,100 children and adolescents were injured on farms and 3,400 due to farm work.
Sadly, most of these farm-related accidents could have been prevented if appropriate safety measures would have been taken. Often, nature does not leave a big enough time period to get the work done, so farmers and farm workers feel the need to hurry. Be sure to slow down and think about the safest ways to go about your work. Also, make certain that all safety equipment is working properly and that you follow the appropriate safety procedures during operation.
Those at risk working on the farm range from young children to senior farmers. Quite often youth work at a very young age with very little supervision. These youth can also be innocent bystanders or passengers on farm equipment. Be sure to look out for their interests by keeping them safe. Youth should be given appropriate tasks that they are able to perform safely. Always think of how to safely operate machines and equipment before you start and be sure to show and tell the young people as well.
Good luck with the fall harvest, and please remember to take things slowly and exercise safety in your daily work.
For more information on how to protect yourself, your farm family and your farm employees during harvest season, visit the National Agricultural Safety Database website at http://nasdonline.org/browse/1/topic.html.
Nathan Winter is a crops educator with University of Minnesota Extension.