Keeping Safe at Harvest
During harvest, there can’t be a big enough emphasis on safety on the farm.
Recently there was a news story of one death and one serious injury on a potato farm during planting. This happens every year. Just last week a laborer in Michigan died when his clothes got tangled in the tractor’s PTO. Last year, I read about two teenagers who were killed when a car collided with their tractor as it drove down the road.
One moment of inattention can have devastating results. In 2007, 715 deaths and 80,000 disabling injuries were attributed to agriculture, according to data compiled by Kansas State University Extension. The 2006 death rate for farmers and farm employees was 28 in 100,000, and the injury rate that year was 6 in 100. That makes agriculture first in death rate, followed closely by mining and construction.
While many of the farm injuries were attributed to handling livestock, most of the deaths involved a tractor and the injury rate was highest among farmers and farm workers over the age of 45.
Safety goes beyond machinery, too. There are caustic chemicals on the farm that can cause injury if the label isn’t followed or the safety instructions are ignored. Applications of sulfuric acid to kill vines might work well, but who hasn’t melted part of a boot walking into a recently treated field? Without proper safety gear, a worker could get it on his skin, and without proper signage, a neighbor’s children or pets could walk into the field.
According to the data from Kansas State University Extension, the average farm injury resulted in four lost days. That could make or break a season if an injury comes during harvest, and a death could have far-reaching effects. In either case, the farm can be liable for damages if safety precautions aren’t taken or someone is careless on a piece of machinery. Not only are days lost from down time, legal action could sink the entire farm.
Look for opportunities to encourage safety during harvest, and make sure all of the safety gear on your equipment is functioning before it gets into the field and it’s too late to fix the problem.