• Safety

Farm Safety: Potential Hazards of Farm Work



Contrary to  the popular image of fresh air  and  peaceful surroundings, a farm is not a hazard-free work setting. Every year, thousands of farm workers are  injured and  hundreds more die  in farming accidents. According to  the National Safety Council, is  the most hazardous industry in the nation.

Health and  Safety  Hazards on  Farms Farm workers—including farm families  and migrant  workers—are exposed to hazards  such as the following:

  • Chemicals/Pesticides
  • Cold
  • Dust
  • Electricity
  • Grain bins
  • Hand tools
  • Highway  traffic
  • Lifting
  • Livestock  handling
  • Machinery/Equipment
  • Manure  pits
  • Mud
  • Noise
  • Ponds
  • Silos
  • Slips/Trips/Falls
  • Sun/Heat
  • Toxic gases
  • Tractors
  • Wells

High  Risk Factors on  Farms

The following factors  may increase 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  protective equipment, such as seat  belts on tractors, and personal  protective equipment  (such as safety gloves, coveralls, boots,  hats, aprons,  goggles, face  shields)  could significantly  reduce  farming injuries.
  • Medical  Care – Hospitals and emergency medical care are typically  not readily  accessible in rural areas  near farms.

How You Can Improve Farm  Safety

You can start by increasing your 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. Be especially alert to hazards  that may  affect children and the elderly.  Minimize hazards  by carefully  selecting the products  you  buy to ensure  that you  provide  good  tools  and equipment. Always use  seat  belts  when  operating tractors,  and establish  and maintain  good housekeeping practices.  Here are some  other steps  you  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 your 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.

The  Benefits of Improved Safety and  Health Practices

Better safety  and health practices  reduce  worker fatalities,  injuries, and illnesses as well as associated costs  such as workers’  compensation   premiums,  lost production,  and medical  expenses. A safer and more  healthful workplace improves morale  and productivity.