National Farm Safety & Health Week and “Shift Farm Safety into High Gear” September 16-20

It can happen in a split second when you least expect it, when our minds are elsewhere or when we say to ourselves that I’ll get to it when I have time.  According to the CDC’s NIOSH Education and Information Division, 80 percent of farm accidents result from carelessness or failure to deal with hazards safely, and these are accidents are avoidable.

The National Farm Safety & Health Week will take place from September 16 to 20 with the theme of “Shift Farm Safety into High Gear.” The theme is a reminder that it is everyone’s responsibility to prioritize safety on the farm and on rural roadways.

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety is hosting webinars with a theme each day at noon and two Central Standard time. To register for the webinars, visit the Agrisafe NFSHW page. The subjects of each day are:

  • Monday, September 16th – Tractor Safety/Rural Roadway
  • Tuesday, September 17th – Farmers Health & Opioid/Suicide Prevention
  • Wednesday, September 18th – Safety & Health for Youth in Agriculture
  • Thursday, September 19th – Confined Spaces in Agriculture
  • Friday, September 20th – Safety & Health for Women in Agriculture

In addition to the activities by the center, there is the film by Sam Goldberg, titled “Silo” that is currently being shown at Husker Harvest Days. The film addresses the safety issues with working in grain bins. As Goldberg states the movie is based on the story of two teenage boys who go into a bin with an older man, become entrapped and the rescue involved in a small town. While the film will be released limitedly in the fall, local farm bureaus, FFA chapters, or those who wish a special showing, can email silothefilm@gmail.com or check out silothefilm.com.

Grain entrapment, along with tractor rollovers are statistically the most prevalent accident and can cause serious injury or death. Another major cause of injuries is with motor vehicle accidents during the harvest season and account for many of the serious injuries to farmers while they are off-farm.

“Farmers and ranchers have to be careful around harvest season, they’re on the move, and they’re trying to get from point A to point B as quick as they can,” said Chris Buechel, Senior Loss Control Specialist at American Family Insurance. “Defensive driving is important for everybody to be on their guard because the farmer may have his mind on the next field and be looking down the road and he pulls out. Everybody tries their utmost in safety, but the size of equipment today certainly compounds the opportunity for extra hazards.”

In addition to farm-accident fatalities, the CDC report states that nonfatal injuries, including both lost-time and no lost- time accidents, occur to about a third of the farm population annually. As Buechel notes, farmers and ranchers need to be aware of belt covers on grain augers, worn covers on PTOs, and ensure that people working around machinery make sure that it is “totally shut down and disengaged, the lock-out, tag-out, that turn and clear off.”

In these times of economic stress, it is crucial to take a mental break as there are times when your mind is focused elsewhere which can cause injuries or lead to substance abuse. There are resources that can help farmers and ranchers, from talking to a neighbor, counseling, to calling helplines, and some of these will be addressed in the webinar.

“Safety involves having your full attention, dedicated at all times. If you are stressed, it’s easy to try and do things on the quick and short, try all the steps along the way that you need to do,” Buechel said. “. If we are visitin’ with someone in the world of agriculture, and we see that they are down in the doldrums…encouragement to them on the positive side and helping them reach for assistance from a professional in a different facet, it’s the good neighbor thing we can do.”

Chris Buechel states that American Family agents across the Midwest have access to loss prevention materials, including a booklet titled, “Loss Control for Farm and Ranch” which contains checklists and information about such topics as slow-moving vehicle signs in good visible shape, auger protection, avoiding grain entrapment, and railing on the steps.