Four thousand six hundred seventy-nine. That’s how many fatal work injuries there were in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor’s most recent census. In some countries, farming accounts for twice as many deaths as all other industries and it has long been considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States.
Equipment manufacturers have made giant strides in producing safer equipment, with roll bars, seat belts, passenger seats and more. The problem however, is the same as the adage, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Farmers remove roll bars and fail to use seat belts. They hold grandchildren or their lap or let them ride “shotgun.”
It’s not the presence or lack of safety equipment that is the problem, though. Farmers are smart and know what they “should” do. But when they get in a hurry – as they all do – they often don’t do what they should do. As a result, accidents happen. They don’t put on the harness when they climb into a bin, or they don’t put on a mask when they’re pumping manure, or…the list goes on.
Based on reported work-related deaths in Iowa between 2001 and 2011, nearly one-third of fatal workplace accidents were agricultural. This doesn’t even include the farm deaths that went unreported. When one considers that less than 1 in 1,000 people in Iowa are involved in agriculture, it’s painfully evident there is still much work to be done.
The 10 U.S. Agricultural Centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are promoting safety solutions by pooling their resources. Eighty safety videos are featured at this YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/USagCenters, from ladders, to needle-stick prevention, to respiratory protection and more.
I’ll bet nearly all of you think of these numbers as more than statistics. Most likely, they represent an uncle, grandfather, cousin, friend, brother, sister, husband or wife. Remind those you care about to be extra careful during the harvest season, and do your part in promoting Farm Safety Week – now and throughout the year.