Although the majority of accidents on the farm occur during harvest, they can also occur year-round. In December, a Norman County, Minnesota man died in a grain bin accident and in Lankin, North Dakota, a man is lucky to be alive when he was stuck for over an hour in a bin filled with fifteen-thousand bushels of corn.
The latest statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) show in 2016, there were 417 deaths from a work-related injury. The figure echoes the most recent United States Department of Labor report, ranking agriculture as the most hazardous industry in the United States in 2017-18.
“Someone said to me that every incident is a shortcut gone wrong,” said Melissa Ploeckelman, outreach specialist National Farm Medicine Center and National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. “That’s a really good way to look at farm incidents and fatalities. As farmers, we are in a hurry to get through our tasks, and we need to get more done.”
To promote farm safety, and prevent injuries or possibly deaths, the Upper Midwest Agriculture Safety and Health Center (UMASH) is integrating the “One Health” initiative which works in the research, education, and prevention of injuries, changes in production practices to benefit animal health and worker safety.
The center recommends that farmers, their families, and workers go through a minimum of one of the 24 one-page checklists they created once a month.
“It starts that conversation and that discussion is safety on the farm,” said Ploeckelman. “They don’t take a long time. They are not the be-all, end-all. They definitely bring safety back to the forefront on the mind so that farmers are always thinking about it, and that’s what they need to do as they are working day-to-day to get all these tasks done.”
The checklists include child safety that farmers and workers can use to talk about the dangers to keep your children and their friends safe. About three children die from an agriculture-related incident every day, according to a 2018 factsheet from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. The Center also states that 33 children are injured every day as well to the point of being out of commission for more than four hours.
As a result, the Center created the Ag Youth Work Guidelines, which picks common tasks that youth perform around the farm and matches them with the appropriate tasks.
“A lot of times, parents want a specific age, but we said it is not always about the age of the child,” said Ploeckelman. “A lot of times, it’s about their maturity, physical, cognizant, or mental. If you think about it in most states at twelve years old, children can take a tractor safety course. Does that mean they are ready to drive a tractor at twelve years old? Sometimes they may be tall enough, but are they mentally aware of what to do if something goes wrong? Do they know enough to shut down the machine?”
Accidents can occur year-round, and it is essential to keep safety at the forefront whenever you are out working with machinery and animals. Ploeckelman points out that at the end of the day, the most important thing is that every person gets to come home to their family. That every farm father, mother, worker, and child gets to be tucked in safely and alive at night.