The National Safety Council encourages all Americans to become more aware of the significance that agriculture plays in all of our lives and the importance of safety equipment and systems, proper maintenance, and preventing injuries and illnesses on farms and ranches. Year-round safe work practices must be emphasized.
"The National Safety Council's 1999 Edition of Injury Facts reports that agriculture is the second most hazardous industry in the naton with a rate over 22 deaths per 100,000 workers," said Terry Wilkinson, manager of the National Safety Council's Agriculture Division. "These statistics also show an estimated 780 deaths and 140,000 disabling injuries in agriculture during 1998."
Agriculture has long been one of the most hazardous American industries.
Through the decades, progress has been made in reducing injuries and illnesses to those involved in agricultural activities. Yet there are still other areas that are a growing concern in the oldest industry in the United States.
Tractor overturns remain the greatest source of fatal injury on the farm. Each year, hundreds of fatal injuries from tractor overturns occur with tractors not equipped with a Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS).
"Farmers need to understand the importance of having a ROPS on their tractor and wearing their seat belt," said Wilkinson. "The first step is to say 'no' to the operation of tractors without a ROPS and the second step is to always wear your seat belt on tractors equipped with an approved ROPS."
According to Injury Facts, 255 tractor-related deaths occurred nationwide in 1997. Tractor overturns accounted for 133 deaths, 52 percent of the total.
Rigid and/or foldable ROPS are available for almost all tractors built since 1970 and for many tractors older than that. Tractor manufacturers have voluntarily installed ROPS on all new tractors since 1985; however, data shows that nearly two out of every three tractors in the United States do not have a ROPS, according to the National Safety Council.
Another area receiving increased attention in recent years are the risks associated with different age groups on the farm and ranch. "Young farmers under the age of 25 and farm workers over the age of 55 show a high risk of injury on the farm," said Wilkinson.
Workers under the age of 25 account for 15 percent of the workforce and nine percent of all deaths. Workers age 55 and older comprise nearly 28 percent of the workforce, but are involved in approximately half of all deaths in farming, a fatality rate 2.5 times higher than workers under 55 years of age.
New farm safety initiatives are focusing on these workers with positive outcomes to reduce their risk of injuries.
"Many injuries and illnesses can be prevented on farms and ranches by using effective education that emphasizes hands-on training in the agricultural environment," said Sam Steel, director of the National Education Center for Agriculture Safety, a partnership of the National Safety Council and Northeast Iowa Community College. The center provides training to youth, adult farm workers, older workers, and the entire farm family.
Other areas of major injury on the farm are extra riders on tractors and equipment; equipment entanglement; crop and manure storage facility hazards; exposure to toxic gases, chemicals, dusts, and mold; sun exposure; stress; livestock handling; motor vehicle collisions with equipment on the highway; and farm truck-related injuries.
Farm injury chart
Runovers resulted in 66 deaths in 1997, according to Injury Facts, nearly 26 percent of the total fatalities. The two major causes of runovers are riders on tractors and bystanders near them. "Farmers, parents, children, and the American public need to understand that anyone other than the operator on a farm tractor that is not equipped with a manufacturer approved second seat is at great risk to be seriously injured or killed," said Wilkinson. "No riders. No injured riders. It can't get any simpler than that."
Handling livestock is another hazard to farmers. In 1990 in Iowa, one out of every six injuries on the farm involved animals. Common injuries included bites, kicks, and getting pinned between the animal and a fixed object.
According to Iowa State University (ISU) Extension Service, the best way to avoid livestock injuries is to understand animal behavior. Domesticated animals establish habits based on environmental conditions, which are normally fairly uniform. Animals are most active at the time of greatest change in environmental conditions, such as dawn or dusk. Any animal that normally lives in a flock or herd can become lonely, depressed, frightened, or agitated if separated from other animals.
To keep animals from fighting at the feed trough, distribute feed in large, unpredictable patches, the ISU extension service recommends. Avoid uniform distribution, which can lead to territorial behavior.
Additional health concerns on the farm include first-aid training and response and care of injuries and illnesses in rural America.
Wilkinson noted that many other organizations and individuals would be promoting National Farm Safety and Heatlh week and safety throughout the year. Some of these include Cooperative Extension, Farm Safety 4 Kids, state farm bureaus, agricultural educatin instructors, FFA chapters, 4-H and other community groups, public health agencies, and farm safety councils. Public service announcements and fact sheets are available on the Natinal Safety Council's website at http://www.nsc.org/ farmsafe.htm.
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