This week is acknowledged as National Farm Safety Week. It is a time to promote safe environments for those that we love and care for in the agriculture industry.
We are a part of a unique community, where most people know of someone involved in agriculture - whether that be your mother, your uncle, your neighbor or maybe even your co-worker.
As harvest season quickly gets underway, it's important to take the time to think of those involved in agriculture and the service they provide to this community, this state and this country.
Not only should we be thanking them for their diligent work, but also be mindful of the dangers that are associated with this occupation - and there's no better time to do so than now.
Please bear with me as I list a few statistics collected from the Agriculture Safety and Health Council of America (ASCHA):
There are 2.17 million farms across the United States that provide work for nearly 2.7 million workers, in addition to 731,000 youth that work on farms or in an agriculture setting. These people account for only 2 percent of the entire United State's population; however, that 2 percent is so very vital for our survival and may happen to be, as mentioned before, your parents, neighbors and friends.
Now, let's consider the dangers in this line of work. The agriculture industry experiences 480 deaths per year, which accounts for 22.2 deaths per 100,000 workers - the highest rate of occupational deaths, even ahead of transportation, mining and construction.
That number solely represents adult workers.
Every year, there are about 115 children that are killed due to a farming accident, with four out of five children being present on the farm, but not working at the time of the calamity.
So the question becomes, 'what's causing these deaths and how do we start avoiding such accidents?'
To begin, tractors are the overwhelming cause of many farming injuries and deaths, attributing to nearly 125 deaths per year. Livestock, falls from surfaces and suffocation due to grains or gases are amongst other leading causes of both death and serious injury.
Practicing safe procedures when operating equipment, handling animals and being present around harmful chemicals are a few ways in which farmers can avoid such accidents.
Often times, safety becomes an after-thought, as we rush to finish a chore before the rain comes or the dark of the night arrives, or maybe even before the break of dawn as we're running on empty from the day prior. I can only hope that all may slow down and proceed with caution.
After all, every day 167 farmers suffer a work-related injury, with 5 percent of those injuries resulting in permanent damage.
I once interviewed a dairy farmer who had been in the industry for 45-plus years. It wasn't until a few weeks after the initial interview that he sent me a hand-written letter describing mostly the ups, but some of the downs, of dairying.
His words resonate with me day in and day out as I meet more and more people becoming passionately involved in the industry, but this particular message I find fitting to share with all of you:
"The shortcut is almost always the long way around, and sometimes it will lead you to a tragic end of the trail..."
While this week is recognized as Farm Safety Week, let's make every single day begin with the importance of farm safety.
To all of our family, friends and neighbors in the fields this harvest season - please, be careful.