Recently released data from the National Safety Council (NSC) Research staff continues to show the dangers involved with farming activities in the United States.
According to the Council, 770 persons died from their injuries while working on farms and ranches in 1999. In addition, another 150,000 suffered disabling injuries.
When comparisons are drawn between industries, the nation''s agricultural industry was second only to mining in terms of deaths per 100,000 workers, according to NSC.
The death and injury numbers show a need for continued education and training among agricultural workers, said NSC''s Alan Hoskin.
"Extension safety specialists at land-grant universities across the United States are working to bring the level of preventable incidents down," said Hoskin. "Many of their educational initiatives are aimed at the most dangerous farming activities, including farm tractor and skid steel loader operations, handling livestock, and working in or near crop storage facilities such as silos, manure pits and grain bins."
Hoskin said other organizations are working diligently with special populations of farm workers, including children and youth, who are at an increased risk for death and injury in agricultural work.
"Many young people get into trouble by copying what they see adults do on the farm," said Hoskin. "If they notice a parent step over an operating power take-off, they will most likely do the same, even though it is not a safe practice."
NSC noted that among agricultural safety and health professionals, there is an increased interest in working to prevent the excessive level of injuries and death among the elderly.
Many farmers do not retire at the age of 65. Data released over the past several years indicates that farm tractor operators over age 65 are two to three times more likely to die in tractor run-over and overturn accidents, said NSC.
Hoskin said another population of farm employees being targeted for safety and health training are migrant workers.
"Many migrant farm workers in the United States come from Mexico and do not speak English," said Hoskin. "Their training must be translated so that they can understand the chemical hazards that may be present in the agricultural workforce."
Despite the efforts to increase safety and health education among these groups of farm workers, Hoskin said, injury and fatality data shows that there is still much more work to be done to making farming a safer occupation.
by Virginia Sutcliffe