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Farming Hazards and Controls
Your farm is more than just a business – it’s your livelihood. Educate yourself and your employees on safe practices on the farm, so you can stay safe, reduce risks and protect your legacy.
While farming is a hugely rewarding endeavor, farmers still face risks while on the job. All farm workers, including families and migrant workers, are exposed to hazards, such as chemicals/pesticides, dust, electricity, grain bins, livestock, machinery/equipment, silos, tractors, and wells. Better safety and health practices can reduce worker fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, as well as associated costs, such as workers' compensation insurance premiums, lost production and medical expenses.
Risk Factors on Farms
The following factors may increase the risk of injury or illness for farm workers:
- Age – Injury rates are highest among children age 15 and under and adults over 65.
- Equipment and Machinery – Most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery. Proper machine guarding and doing equipment maintenance, according to manufacturers’ recommendations, can help prevent accidents.
- Protective Equipment – Using safety equipment, such as seat belts on tractors, and personal protective equipment, such as safety gloves, coveralls, boots, hats, aprons, goggles, and face shields, can significantly reduce farming injuries.
- Medical Care – Hospital and emergency medical care is typically not readily accessible in rural areas.
Improving Farm Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended that farm workers should start by increasing their awareness of farming hazards and making a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations, including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires, and chemical exposures. Workers should be especially alert to hazards that may affect children and the elderly. Some hazards can be minimized by carefully selecting the products purchased to ensure that workers use good tools and equipment. Other hazards can be controlled by following good safety practices, such as always using seat belts when operating tractors and establishing and maintaining good housekeeping practices.
The following are other steps that workers can take to reduce illnesses and injuries on the farm:
- Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals and on product labels.
- Inspect equipment routinely for problems that may cause accidents.
- Discuss safety hazards and emergency procedures with workers.
- Install approved rollover protective structures, protective enclosures or protective frames on tractors.
- Make sure that guards on farm equipment are replaced after maintenance.
- Review and follow instructions in material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and on labels that come with chemical products and communicate information on these hazards to your workers.
- Take precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos or hoppers. Never “walk the grain.”
- Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can form in unventilated grain silos and manure pits and can suffocate or poison workers or explode.
- Take advantage of safety equipment, such as bypass starter covers, power take-off master shields and slow-moving vehicle emblems.