SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – The third week of September is national farm safety and health week, and has been ongoing every year since 1944.
Over the years, the development and dissemination of National Farm Safety and Health Week materials have shifted to the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS). NECAS is the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council and has been serving families and businesses in agriculture since 1997.
This year’s theme for safety and health week is “Shift Farm Safety Into High Gear”. The theme reminds farmers that it is everyone’s responsibility to prioritize safety on the farm and the rural roadways of America.
The 2017 data for the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 581 fatalities, which comes out to 23 deaths per 100,000 farmers.
Farm safety comes into play in the fields and on the roadways. Farmers should take precautions to stay safe while getting ready to head out in their tractors. Farmers and/ or their workers should always do the following before hitting the fields:
- Pre-operational checks to make sure everything is good to go, if you spot an issue with something report it or fix it. If it can’t be fixed right away, use a different tractor/ piece of equipment.
- Always make three points of contact while climbing into the tractor, use two handles to hold yourself up and use a footstep to help lift yourself, this prevents you from falling off your tractor.
- Always use your lights for visibility
- Never have extra riders with you Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Always wear your seatbelt
- Wear hearing protection
- Drive slow and cautious
It’s not just about farm safety though, it’s also about health. Farmers face a lot of mental and physical health-related setbacks while out in the fields or on the farm itself. U.S. agriculture is mostly exempt from federal guidelines for improving workplace safety and protecting workers. 10% of farmers have a work-related amputation. Along with this, farmers face other health-related issues such as respiratory issues because they are directly exposed to many miscellaneous pollutants related to modern farming work tasks like:
- organic and inorganic dust (like molds, fungi, animal dander, fertilizers, and soil particles)
- fumes from diesel and gasoline exhausts
- potentially toxic herbicides and insecticides
- gasses accumulating in grain silos (like nitrogen dioxide)
Farmers also have some of the highest suicide rates amongst workers in the U.S.
According to the CDC finding mental health help can be hard while living in rural areas, due to the population being lower.
There are also other factors that play a role in decreasing the mental health of farmers. Some of these other factors include:
- fluctuating crop and input prices,
- interest rates on land and loans
- the weather
- finding good laborers
To help with mental health awareness, North Dakota University developed a program that addresses stress and promotes mental wellness with a rural audience.
The program is called Managing Stress and Pursuing Wellness in Times of Tight Margins, or “Farm Stress” for short. It’s a one hour program that is geared towards farmers and other agricultural workers. The program provides participants with information about stress management, depression, suicide, and wellness promotion.