ASSE Offers Tips For National Farm Safety and Health Week

As occupational injuries continue to grow in the agricultural industry, President George W. Bush has officially declared the week of Sept. 16-22 National Farm Safety and Health Week. The focus will center on protecting young agricultural workers. To aid in these efforts, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering farm-related safety and health tips to help prevent agricultural injuries and illnesses on farms.

“Many agricultural injuries and illnesses can be prevented by taking proper measures to eliminate or protect workers from farm hazards,” said Dr. Terry Wilkinson, ASSE director of Member/Regional Affairs and agricultural safety specialist. “We urge farmers to contact their state or local cooperative extension, farm bureau office or National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Agricultural Center, which provide programs such as farm safety camps, resources, training and more aimed at preventing farm-related injuries.”

There were 646 workplace fatalities for the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries in 2006, according do the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Agriculture is the most dangerous industry for youth, accounting for 42 percent of all work-related fatalities of young workers between 1992 and 2000, according to the National Consumer League.

Young Workers At Risk

As most farms do not fall under the auspices of OSHA rules and regulations, ASSE urges parents to train young farmers well in all aspects of farming, including safety. Most of the 200 plus deaths among children on farms result from being innocent bystanders or passengers on farm equipment. Surveys indicate that many farm children are working in dangerous environments by the age of 10. Young farmers can enroll in a local farm safety camp, often sponsored by the local county extension service, a university, or farm bureau.

In an effort to assist the farming community, ASSE offers these following safety tips:

  • Develop an awareness of hazards on the farm and prepare for emergency situations including machinery entanglements, fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and adverse health effects from chemical exposures.
  • Reduce the risk of injury and illness with preventive measures. Read and follow instructions in equipment operator's manuals. Follow instructions on product labels for safe use, handling and storage.
  • Conduct routine inspections of your equipment to determine problems and potential failures that may contribute to or cause an accident. Properly maintain tools, buildings and equipment.
  • Conduct meetings with employees and family members to assess safety hazards, discuss potential accident situations and outline emergency procedures.
  • Provide approved rollover protective structures (ROPS). Use seat belts while the tractor is in operation on tractors equipped with a ROPS.
  • Make sure guards for farm equipment are put back on after maintenance to protect workers from moving machinery parts.
  • Review material safety data sheets and labels that come with all chemical products.
  • Communicate information concerning hazards to all workers. Prevent pesticide poisonings and dermatitis caused by chemicals by ensuring that protective measures recommended on the labels are taken.
  • Take the necessary precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos, wagons and other storage structures.
  • Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be present in unventilated grain silos and manure pits in quantities sufficient to cause asphyxiation or explosion.
  • Farmers are at great risk of contracting respiratory problems due to the amount of dust and chemicals they breathe in on a daily basis. Wearing protective equipment, which is readily available, can prevent acute and chronic respiratory illnesses. Protective equipment such as mechanical filters and chemical cartridge masks are air-purifying respirators that help protect lungs from harmful gases and dusts.
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