According to the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the agricultural sector is still amongst the most dangerous in America, with 574 fatalities. Transportation incidents alone resulted in 274 deaths, including104 deaths involving land vehicles in non-roadway areas and 94 in roadway areas. More than 95,000 farms cover over 27 million acres here in Missouri, with more than 400,000 acres of farmland in Stoddard, Bates, Saline, Nodaway, and Vernon counties.
A fantastic investigative article by the Missourian details just how every day, Missouri farmers face hazardous work conditions and potential injury, “Every day, tasks on a farm carry the risk of injury or death. Tractors tip over and crush the operator. Farmers drown in grain silos. Grain augers tear off limbs. Heads are scalped when hair gets caught in spinning tractor parts.” Electrocution, deadly fumes, and heatstroke are additional risks contributing to making farming a hazardous profession.
Injuries from animals and livestock are also common, as seventeen percent of all farm injuries involve animals. Show-Me Farm Safety recommends creating a low-stress environment for livestock by making calm and deliberate movements as animals can sense when someone is scared or nervous around them. Signs of aggression or fear for possible danger include:
- Raised or pinned earns
- Raised tail or hair on the back
- Bared teeth
- Pawing at the ground
Other common causes of farm injury are collisions when moving farm machinery or SMVs (slow-moving vehicles) such as farm tractors on the highway. As the Missouri State Highway Patrol puts it, drivers of farm machinery are no different from drivers in any other group. Every driver must comply with safety rules, obey traffic laws, exercise common sense, and practice courtesy to ensure their chances of driving and surviving a crash. Of course, farmers understand how their machinery works, but many motorists do not. Therefore, extra caution should be taken when driving farm machinery across or onto the main highway or a side road or lane.
Yet another risk, rollover tractor and heavy equipment injuries are amongst the most common and hazardous in the United States. Thankfully rollover protective structures (ROPS) can help prevent and lessen the risk of harm to tractor operators. A ROPS is a roll bar or cage frame that is designed to form a zone of protection around the operator if a tractor overturns. According to OSHA, an operator’s chances of surviving a tractor overturn without a serious injury are very good if the tractor has a ROPS and the operator is wearing a seat belt. To prevent being thrown from a tractor, operators must wear a seat belt. The Missouri Department of Labor advises the additional following ways to reduce the risk of a rollover:
OSHA also has standards covering agricultural operations, information on solutions to common agricultural hazards, and other resources such as publications to help employers and employees create and maintain safe and healthy work environments.
As a worker, you have a right to a safe work environment. If you are unsure whether you are exposed to unsafe work conditions, contact OSHA by either going to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. In addition, as an employee, it’s your right to raise a health or safety concern without retaliation from the employer.
For more information and great lessons for farm safety in Missouri, please visit Show-Me Farm Safety.