The number of ag workers who suffer serious injuries or die on the job each year is staggering. In 2017 alone, 416 farmers and farm workers 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 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, have a plan in place for how to handle accidents. Think about the accidents and injuries to which your workers might be the most susceptible, and work on your plan from there. All ag workers should be briefed on how to handle different injuries. Educate your employees about the statistics of on-farm injuries and the risks associated with certain equipment.
> RETAIN EMERGENCY CONTACTS
Part of your emergency protocol should include having current emergency contact information for everyone on the farm available. Know who to contact if anyone gets injured and how they are related to the employee. Also, have any relevant employee medical information that could affect treatment in the event of an injury on file.
> KEEP EMERGENCY SUPPLIES
Preparing for accidents also means having the right supplies on hand. All vehicles and machinery should have a safety kit and eyewash 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 LESSONS
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 to prevent a similar situation from happening again. The more proactive you are about avoiding farm-related injuries, the safer everyone will be.
> EMPLOY 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 to 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 RISK
Take inventory of your surroundings. Look for ways people could get hurt, so you can remove those risks. 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 so 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 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. This person's role is to develop policies and practices aimed at preventing injuries, educating other employees and ensuring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other state compliance.
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