A slips, trips and falls training video from human resources isn’t going to be enough to show farmers how many inherent dangers come with their job.
While many office jobs show videos to workers to illustrate how to safely manage a workplace, there are so many different opportunities for danger on a farm it might take a feature-length film to encompass a farmer’s day-to-day operation.
Amy Rademaker, who works for the Carle Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety in Urbana, Illinois, said farmers need to be paying attention to a large number of issues that could pop up, and the best way to solve some of those issues is to listen to your body.
Go to the doctor regularly if there are concerns and do not neglect an annual physical, she said.
Rademaker also suggested slowing down a little bit, as lifting a heavy bag of seed the wrong way could cause long-term back pain, or moving too fast while getting out of a combine might cause a tumble to the ground.
“Try to eliminate the hazard,” she said. “If we take more time and thought with equipment, we can avoid some of the risk involved with them.”
She suggested having personal protective equipment on hand, such as a helmet or dust mask. She said one of the issues farmers notice is impacts to their lungs and breathing from inhaling fumes and dust.
Rademaker noted ear protection is equally as important, as loud equipment can make for noticeable hearing loss.
Ansley StPierre with the AgriSafe network said one of the issues the group is raising awareness about is possible dehydration in the winter. With heavy clothing, sweat gets absorbed quickly and she noted it is easy to forget to continue drinking water in the cold weather.
AgriSafe also reminds farmers to be cautious about fungicides and pesticides. They emphasize double checking the product labeling to ensure farmers are using the right protection, from gloves to respirators.
Grain bins are also a perennial danger for farmers, with National Farmers Union documents and videos reminding farmers that flowing grain, bridging and crusted grain and collapsing grain can lead to engulfment in a bin. Lock or tag equipment before someone enters the bin to prevent someone inadvertently turning on the equipment being repaired or adjusted.
The National Farmers Union also noted livestock producers need to stay cautious, keep their routines focused on safety and not let bad habits “creep in” from day to day.
There are also possibilities for incidents when driving farm vehicles on public roads. The NFU documents say to make sure a slow-moving-vehicle symbol is present, especially during night driving, and to be aware of the space around the vehicle.
“One of the most common road accidents that occur with farm vehicles is when the driver makes a left hand turn and cannot see a vehicle attempting to pass,” they said.
The health and safety issues farmers face aren’t just physical.
Rademaker said that right now, the Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety is concerned about the mental health of farmers after several tough years. Stress levels are at a high point for many farmers today, so she encourages farmers to speak their minds and let the people around them know when something isn’t right.