The 2018 data for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 574 fatalities, or an equivalent of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Fall harvest time can be one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry.
For this reason, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week. This annual promotion initiated by the National Safety Council has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. President since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. National Farm Safety and Health Week is led by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council.
The theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week 2020 is “Every Farmer Counts.” It’s one meant to remind us that it is in everyone’s best interest to prioritize the health and safety of those who work so hard to provide our abundant supply of food, fiber and fuel.
Along with the theme for the week, there are daily focus topics and related webinars at www.necasag.org. More about the topics follow:
Monday, Sept. 21 - Tractor Safety and Rural Roadway Safety
At noon, the webinar “Planting the Seeds of Tractor and Machinery Safety,” will be presented by Dr. Aaron Yoder from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health.
Tractors and machinery have traditionally been a leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries on and around farms and ranches. This webinar will cover the basic hazards associated with tractors and machinery and how to prevent injuries.
Tuesday, Sept. 22 - Overall Farmer Health
Two webinars are planned for the day. At noon is “Lessons Learned in COVID-19 Prevention Efforts among Agriculture Workers and Employers”
Agriculture work sites, shared worker housing, and shared worker transportation vehicles present unique challenges for preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. Consistent application of specific preparation, prevention, and management measures can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Best practices in COVID-19 testing and contact training will be shared to help agricultural producers identify strategies for responding on their farm. The CDC COVID-19 prevention guidance for agriculture will also be shared to assist employers in adopting recommendations to protect workers.
At 2 p.m. is “Mental Health Innovations in Agricultural Communities.”
This session is a panel presentation will communicate a forward vision of agricultural mental health. The presenters will explore the development of a farmer specific hotline, the efforts of a state department of agriculture, and unique examples that coalesce around a central objective-to meet the mental health needs of agricultural producers and their families. The goal is that this session will spark discussion, ideas, and collaborations between community and governmental groups to thoughtfully build a mental health safety net for the people that feed America.
Wednesday, Sept. 23 - Safety and Health for Youth in Agriculture
At noon, “Building a Toolkit for Child Agricultural Safety and Health” will introduce participants to the world of child agricultural safety and health. After learning about benefits, risks and hazards of living, working and playing on farms, participants will explore strategies for safeguarding children. Presenters will help participants build a toolkit for safeguarding children and youth in the agricultural environment. All tools and resources used to build these toolkits are available free of charge.
At 2 p.m., “Teach Your Way: Open Source Ag Health and Safety Curriculum” will discuss how to use AgriSafe’s free online trainings in the classroom. Educators can be certified to train on six AgriSafe modules targeted for ages 16-23. The program’s goal is to build the capacity of local agricultural educators, rural health professionals and rural leaders to train young workers.
Thursday, Sept. 24 - Emergency Preparedness in Agriculture
At noon is “Emergency Planning for Farm Operations.”
Safety planning is one of the most difficult to justify because you never know the amount of time, money, or lives you are saving for accidents that don't happen. With more children likely to be on the farm than ever before in history again this fall, it is even more critical we take action for Emergency Response Planning.
Safety consultant Shay Foulk will speak on how to navigate the difficult conversations, implementation, and sustainability of Emergency Response Planning. No different than any other business, Foulk works with farming operations to assess risks, identify solutions, and implement them in a manner that is practical and easy for farms.
Foulk is a former Army Ranger. He returned to the farm and brought back planning and safety procedures that can be easily implemented for safe working environments. He helps coach farming operations on practical safety, implementation, and follow-through.
The 2 p.m. webinar is “Respiratory Protection Issues in Agriculture - What to Wear and Does It Fit?”
The business of agriculture presents a myriad of hazards, including exposures to dusts, molds, pesticides and other chemicals, gases, as well as welding fumes and particles. Deciding what protection to use to prevent acute and chronic respiratory diseases is confusing. In addition, just finding the right protective gear can be a challenge. This webinar will address those issues and provide information on the importance of fit testing and fit (seal) checks.
Friday, Sept. 25 - Safety and Health for Women in Agriculture
At 10 a.m. is a webinar “Safety in The Field: Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment for Farm Workers.”
A total 36% of the 3.4 million producers counted in the census are women. Education will focus on all women including farmworker women and their employers on reporting violent incidents to authorities, making employees aware of their legal rights, safe work practices, medical referrals, treatment, and options including counseling if needed.
The noon webinar wraps up the week with “Discovering the Root of Your Back Story: Prevention and Understanding of Back Injuries.”
Back injuries are one of the most common forms of farm-related injuries. Protection of the spine and related musculature is one of the most important steps a producer can do to remain active on the farm. Men and women are equally prone to work-related back pain and the first episode usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. Training will focus on whole body vibration, causes of back injuries or pain, doable strategies to prevent injuries and pain, and other considerations.