The number of ag workers that suffer serious injuries or die on the job each year is staggering. In 2017 alone, 416 farmers and farmworkers died from work-related injuries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Each day, approximately 100 ag workers lose work time because of a work-related injury.
To protect your workers and prevent tragedies from occurring on your farm, here are some tips to avoid farm-related injuries.
HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE
To ensure that you know what to do if an accident happens, you should have a plan in place for how to handle accidents. Think about the accidents and injuries your workers might be the most susceptible to and work on your plan from there.
All ag workers should be briefed on how to handle different injuries. Educate all your employees about the statistics of on-farm injuries and the risks associated with certain equipment. This will go a long way to prevent injuries.
GATHER EMERGENCY CONTACT AND MEDICAL INFORMATION
Part of your emergency protocol should include having current emergency contact information of everyone on the farm. You should know who you should contact if anyone gets injured and how they are related to the employee. You should also have any relevant medical information on your employees that could affect their treatment in the event of an injury.
KEEP EMERGENCY SUPPLIES ON HAND
Preparing for accidents also means having the right supplies on hand. All vehicles and machinery should have a safety kit and eye wash rinse bottles that can be used in case of emergencies. The faster you're able to react to a serious incident, the less serious the injuries themselves will be.
USE NEAR MISSES AS LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
In addition to all the incidents that result in serious injuries, there are many more incidents that narrowly avoid the disaster. Don't just brush these incidents off! Use them as learning opportunities: Discuss them and figure out how you could prevent a similar situation from happening again. The more proactive you are about avoiding farm-related injuries, the safer everyone will be.
MITIGATE RISK WITH THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Some of the most high-risk places on the farm are grain bins and breeding pens. Not only are injuries especially likely to happen here, but they are also more likely to be serious. It may not always be convenient, but one of the best ways you can avoid injuries and fatalities in these situations is to implement the buddy system. Always make sure there's someone nearby who could get help quickly in case of an accident.
CONSTANTLY ASSESS THE RISK OF FARM-RELATED INJURIES
One of the simplest ways to avoid accidents is to constantly take inventory of your surroundings. Look for ways people could get hurt, so you can remove those risks and keep people safe. This will be especially beneficial if you have a lot of hired help on your farm. People are constantly moving things around, and mistakes are bound to happen. Take the time to make sure the keys weren't left in the tractor, the equipment was put back in the correct place, and the tripping hazard has been taken care of.
BRING IN OUTSIDE HELP
Sometimes you're too used to seeing the same place day after day that you become blind to the risks. In these cases, it might be a good idea to hire an outside consultant to walk through the farm and provide safety suggestions. The consultant may pick up on risks that you didn't notice.
You also should assign someone to focus on safety on the farm -- either one individual or a small committee for a larger farm. Their role is to develop policies and practices aimed at preventing injuries, educating other employees and ensuring OSHA and other state compliance.
Editor's Note: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm and is the founder of AgHires (https://aghires.com/…), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and find other labor management tips under Resources at www.dtnpf.com.
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