Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-time injuries every day, with 5 percent of those resulting in permanent impairments.
With that in mind – and as the crops grow higher – it’s a good time to review some basic advice to making working on the farm safer.
Using large farm equipment can potentially be dangerous. Before using any piece of equipment for the first time, be sure to read and follow all the instructions. If it’s a familiar piece of equipment, make sure you regularly inspect it to make sure it’s in good running condition. When it comes to tractors and other large pieces of equipment, be sure there’s a rollover prevent structure (RPS) installed and put on a seatbelt.
Whether you’re driving a tractor or working with chemicals and some products like hay, wear the proper gear, such as gloves, ear protection (hearing loss is common among farmers who don’t protect their ears) or protective masks. Also take a look at your clothing and make sure it’s not too loose so it doesn’t become entangled in anything.
Remember to be alert of your surroundings at all times. For example, if you’re working in a grain bin, pay attention to heights and watch out for potential falls. And just like in other jobs, when you become stressed or tired, you can lose your focus or your attention may wane so be sure to take plenty of breaks.
Educate children about farm safety. Children don’t belong on tractors – you could hit a bump and they could easily fall off. Talk with your children about the right way to use a piece of equipment and don’t allow them to do any work that’s not age appropriate.
When working with animals, always be aware of your surroundings. Animals can be unpredictable so take care when you are in close proximity. Be prepared in case an animal tries to kick or bite.
Farmers don’t often think of their own health – they are busy worrying about how their animals are doing and their crops so I also want to stress the importance of annual check-ups and screenings for everyone. A simple physical can identify possible problems down the road. For example, you may have high blood pressure and not even know it. If the issue isn’t addressed through lifestyle changes and possibly medication, your chances for a heart attack dramatically increase.
Just as farmers take time taking care of their animals and crops, it’s essential they remember to take care of themselves, too.
Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.