COLUMBUS, Ohio – From tractors and heavy machinery to long working hours and isolated working environments, agriculture can be among the most dangerous industries to work in, according to safety experts from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
While farming is a rewarding, challenging career, it is also among the most deadly to work in for farm families in Ohio, which averages 24 farm-related fatalities statewide each year, said Dee Jepsen, state safety leader for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
In fact, over the past 10 years, there have been 229 farm-related deaths in Ohio, many of which (95 deaths) involved tractors or heavy machinery, Jepsen said.
“Some 41 percent of the farm-related deaths in Ohio over the past 10 years involved tractors, with tractor roll-overs among the leading cause of tractor-related farm deaths,” she said. “Having a roll bar and seatbelts installed and both used each time a tractor is driven could likely have prevented some of these fatalities.
“Another safety measure that could lessen the potential for tractor-related deaths or injuries includes the concept of one-seat, one-rider, which would prevent incidents where extra riders fall off the tractor as its being driven and are rolled over by the tractor.”
Jepsen said one of the reasons why tractors pose such a widespread threat to farm families is because they are used by a majority of farmers.
“Every farm has at least one tractor -- regardless of the crops planted or the size of the farm operations,” she said. “Farm machinery with moving or self-propelled parts is the No. 2 cause of injuries and fatalities statewide.
“That’s why it’s so important that we spread the word on getting the proper training to work around farm equipment and how working with properly-guarded equipment could potentially lessen the problem and save lives.”
These figures are especially important during harvest season, as farmers are putting in long hours under the stress of weather delays, equipment breakdowns, and high operating costs, said Kathy Mann, program coordinator of the college’s agriculture safety program.
To that end, members of the college’s agriculture safety team are promoting National Farm Safety Week Sept. 15-21 to publicize programs and other resources available to help protect farm families and workers from farm-related injuries and deaths.
The week-long communication efforts, Mann said, include daily promotions via social media of the following safety-related topics:
- GRAIN Community Agricultural Rescue Trailer (C.A.R.T.) – Ohio's first Grain Rescue Simulator trailer, which was designed by CFAES students and is used to train first responders, grain industry employees and farm families about the hazards of flowing grain. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M94zpPBmXZ4.
- Tractor Safety: Does your tractor have a ROPS? Research shows that, when used together, roll bars and seatbelts are 99 percent effective in preventing tractor-related injuries and deaths. More information on this topic can be found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/aex-fact/192/pdf/0192_1_56.pdf.
- Partnering for Safety: The OSU Extension Agriculture Safety and Health program works with various partners to spread agricultural safety messages statewide in Ohio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEj1eDEdZsA.
- Sharing Ohio’s Roads: Cars, tractors, buggies, horses, bikes, and wagons share Ohio’s roadways. Each year approximately 104 crashes between motor vehicles and horse-drawn vehicles occur. Check out these recommendations for both the motorists and horse-drawn vehicle drivers at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b7HuinLPQM.
- Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs: For 50 years, this well-known Ohio State-designed emblem has been mounted on the back of agricultural equipment and horse-drawn vehicles in order to warn the public of a slow-moving vehicle. Find out more at http://agsafety.osu.edu/smv-emblem.
- ATV Safety: Ohio ranks No. 15 nationwide for all-terrain vehicle related-fatalities. Test your ATV safety knowledge by playing Tread-Sylvania, a Web-based interactive game designed by New Mexico State University: http://treadsylvania.com/.
The education and communication efforts of Farm Safety Week, Jepsen said, are to ensure the safety and well-being of hardworking farm families.
“When we think about who gets injured on farms, the answer is everybody,” she said. “The farm industry has workers both young and old and often has injuries to people that aren’t typically included in other workforces.”
For example, Ohio farm-related fatality reports indicate 14 percent were to youth ages 20 and younger, and 40 percent were to people ages 61 and over statewide, Jepsen said.
“When you combine those numbers and you have over 50 percent of the farm-related fatalities happening to people outside the typical workforce age,” she said. “We have to spread the word how hazardous the industry can be and how training is important.”
More information on agriculture safety can be found at http://agsafety.osu.edu.