September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Safety during the spring scramble

By By Jennifer [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Spring has sprung - and so have the increased risks of on-farm injury and death.
Agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, with the occupational fatality rate 800 percent higher than other industries, according to the National Tractor Safety Coalition.
As producers prepare their equipment for fieldwork, handle hazardous chemicals, and share the farm experience with youth, it is important to keep safety at the forefront of every action.
"There is always a concern for safety on the farm, but the concern is heightened now when there are greater risks for injury and death because of machinery," said Marsha Salzwedel, agriculture youth safety specialist for National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety.

The risks of farming
With fieldwork equipment brought out of storage from the long winter months, tractor-related accidents continue to be the most common cause of injury or death on farms.
Injury and death can occur during maintenance of these machines and while operating in the fields and on public roadways.
Before operating the equipment, a safety inspection and maintenance is likely needed. While a common practice, this time often presents unforeseen risks for those operating the machinery and those standing by.
"Many times, incidents happen when something breaks, there's a time pressure to get things done, and we're tired or stressed," said Cheryl Skjolaas, agricultural safety specialist for University of Wisconsin Extension.
During the spring, soil confirmation is particularly variable as the frost leaves the ground and the land begins to dry out. If approaching this type of uneven ground from an unsteady angle, tractor rollovers are likely, crushing or trapping the driver. Across the nation, these rollovers account for 96 deaths each year.
"Those involved in the accident are more often using older tractors that don't have cabs or a bar that serve as rollover protection," said Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension Educator.
Additionally, operating the machinery on public roads presents safety challenges in itself. While each state has their own set of rules regarding farm equipment use on roadways, speed differences in farm equipment and motor vehicles, as well as left hand turns are the major factors in a crash.
Unfortunately, children are often the innocent bystanders when an accident occurs surrounding farm equipment.
Every day, 33 children are injured in agricultural-related incidents, and of the leading causes of on-farm deaths, machinery accounts for 25 percent, according to the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety.
"The biggest issue is that children are the extra riders in tractors," Salzwedel said. "I've seen too many cases where people thought if the tractor had a cab, it was safe. But that didn't make a difference when the child fell through the door or the windshield broke."

Do's, don'ts when caught in an accident
While each incident will vary in severity, there are steps producers should consider when presented with an accident to lessen the negative implications, whether they are the ones affected or assisting in a recovery effort.
If the one involved in the accident is able, they should call 911 and try to get to safety if the scene of the accident is prone to explosion or fire. At this point, it is also vital to evaluate injuries and stop any bleeding.
"If it's something like a tractor overturn or a person crushed, do not try to move the equipment until emergency medical services are on-site to address injuries," Skjolaas said.
Wilmes agreed.
"If you are not the victim, serve in an advising role for medical help who are likely not familiar with farm equipment," she said.
Remembering these important steps in tending to a farm accident can be difficult, but will help save a life.

Prepare for the worst with prevention
Being aware of the dangers of spring fieldwork and understanding the necessary course of action to take when presented with an accident are important. However, preparing for those incidents will help prevent them.
When fixing machinery, make sure the power source is entirely disconnected; and before operating machinery, have a complete understanding of how to properly run the equipment.
"Be aware of your surroundings and be careful," Wilmes said. "You could have done something a million times, but it only takes a second for a hand or shoelace to get caught."
In agriculture, accidents involving working youth under the age of 16 are consistently greater than any other industry, because they are often confronted with tasks that are inappropriate for their age or skillset, Salzwedel said.
"Farms are a wonderful place to grow up, but as kids, they overestimate themselves and are always apt to trying something more or bigger," Salzwedel said. "Research has shown that, as farm parents, we tend to overestimate our kids' abilities, too."
Although reviewing operating manuals of machinery, being aware of the surroundings, taking on responsibilities appropriately given by age and skillset, and creating a plan in case of an accident will deter on-farm incidents from occurring, the strategy is not fool proof.
In addition to the hands-on precautions producers should practice, taking care of their mental health is essential.
"Spring is a stressful time for farm management," Wilmes said. "It's important to take time for yourself, because mental health is just as important as physical health."
Maintaining a balanced diet, taking breaks from the farm work and getting at least seven hours of sleep each day will all aid in healthy mental well being.
Through the years, on-farm safety has become more commonplace, but there remains room for improvement. With continued awareness for proper safety measures, farming becomes more than a staggering statistic of danger.
"Safety has become a part of growing up for today's generations," Salzwedel said. "They're more open to listening and adopting safety strategies, but we cannot stop educating and promoting."

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