Anybody who has been involved with agriculture for a reasonable amount of time probably is aware of someone who has been injured or killed on the job farming. Unfortunately, I am know more than a handful of people who have fallen into both categories over the years.
In preparing to write this column, I called my mom to help refresh my memory of farm-related injuries and deaths in and around the rural community where I grew up in Central Georgia. After only a few moments talking, we were well up into the tens of examples that have happened back home.
Thinking back, I was lucky more than a few occasions during my youth through college years working on farms. The memory of my foot stepping down only inches from the open white maw of a huge coiled Cottonmouth in the middle of a field remains vivid to this day. In that moment, I proved white boys can jump. Or the time my cotton scouting car, a Volkswagen Bug, got ran over by a center pivot tower. That’s a whole other story, but I wasn’t in the car at the time. Let’s just say one’s pride can be injured in agriculture as well.
Forbes magazine ranks agriculture as America’s ninth most dangerous occupation. Stats from the Centers For Disease Control suggest that every day 243 agricultural workers suffer injuries resulting in lost work time — 5% of those end up with permanent disability.
Farming is hard, tiring work where time is of the essence to produce a successful crop. When the pressure is on, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and in that moment get caught off guard. That’s when a lot of the injuries and deaths occur, and its usually a routine task that’s been done a hundred times. When it comes to farm safety, it is often the little things that count.
A slip with a hitch, a careless moment around a PTO, a fall from a tractor or truck, a shock from an electrical outlet — all of these things can happen in a split second, but have long-lasting effects. And, these mishaps are more likely to occur when you are in a hurry to get a job done.
Dangers are present beyond the farm gate. It used to be back roads were just that and the little traffic on them were farm vehicles driven by people who understood the flow of such equipment. While that is still the case in some places, today it is more likely farm vehicles share the road with folks from the city. Accidents are more likely to happen on these busy highways.
Be sure all your trucks and equipment are road-ready and all drivers have the training and credentials to be behind the wheel. Don’t fall into the mentality of, “It is only a couple of miles down the road and my driver is not here right now, so I’ll have one of the harvesters drive.”
Major accidents can happen in a couple of miles. Setting the tragedy of an accident aside, if a driver doesn’t have the proper license or the vehicle was out of service, major liability suits will follow.
I’ve been writing columns for more than 10 years, and I have never written one on farm safety. Shame on me. So take care out there and remember when things get hectic, slow down, catch your breath, watch where you put your hands and feet, and be mindful of your employees’ safety as well.
Unfortunately, accidents will happen no matter how safely you conduct your farm business. That’s just life. But, if you take the time to stop for a moment and evaluate the safety on your farm for yourself and your employees and take corrective actions when needed, those incidents will be a lot less likely.