Stop and proceed with caution during harvest season

September 16, 2013

One cold, November day, a Midwestern farmer was digging post holes on his farm when his coat sleeve became entangled in the machinery. In an instant, his left arm dangled by a few tendons below the elbow, and his spinal cord was bruised. This 45-year-old farmer now has use of both hands, but must use a wheelchair and is considered quadriplegic.

In an interview the farmer considered himself to be somewhat safe, but admitted he still held on to some unsafe work practices. He admitted he had been doing some things for so many years that he didn’t think of them as dangerous.

According to the National Safety Council, farming is currently the most hazardous industry in the United States. Despite advances in equipment safety and more farm safety educational campaigns, farming has not realized the reductions in injuries that construction and other industries have. Farmers are six times more likely to be killed in work-related accidents than workers in other industries.

The leading cause of death and traumatic injuries continues to be tractors and farm machinery. Harvest season is a critical time to slow down and proceed with caution. It is a matter of adhering to safety procedures for equipment operation, providing training and close supervision of employees, keeping children out of the workplace and establishing safety as a core value.

The time pressures are often cited as a reason for so many farm accidents. Most injuries and accidents happen during planting and harvesting when the time pressures peak.The pressure is certainly greater when farmers are also working off the farm. This is the case on more than three out of every four farms in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Farmers should prepare an emergency action plan and review it often with all family members and workers. They should include steps to handle various incidents that could occur to include providing first aid care and treatment, tractor and machinery shutoff procedures, fire extinguisher use, and a communication plan to call 911 and other necessary resources in an emergency.

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