Farmers across the Midwest are off to an early start this planting season.
As farmers rush to take advantage of ideal planting conditions, it can be easy to neglect simple steps for staying safe and healthy while in the field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics an average of 700 deaths can be attributed to farm work injuries each year and an additional 120,000 agricultural workers sustain disabling injuries from work-related accidents. Many of these accidents occur during the spring planting season.
Mechanical, chemical and environmental hazards all contribute to the daily risks farmers face on a day-to-day basis.
While most farm workers are extremely cautious while performing tasks around the farm, sometimes accidents are unavoidable. Luckily, many deaths and accidents can be prevented when proper safety measures are in place and followed.
"Safety education is vital to reducing fatalities and injuries on the farm," says Neil Hoff, manager of product marketing for refined fuels at CHS. "Field work doesn't always end at dusk, and night brings limited visibility of farm machinery on the roads."
Hoff suggests farmers clean off dirty headlights and taillights to reduce the risk of traffic accidents after dark.
Farmers can spend a lot of time hauling equipment and supplies, especially during planting and harvest season. Hoff advises taking the extra time to properly tie down cargo and prevent the loss of part or all of a load and any consequent injuries that may occur.
Farm work is largely dependent on unpredictable weather, seasons and climate giving farmers less flexibility and requiring them to put in long hours, sometimes weeks at a time. With these long hours, farmers are more likely to experience exhaustion and fatigue, which can reduce caution and awareness while operating equipment or handling livestock, and increase their chances for accidents or injury.
Hoff recommends farmers take scheduled breaks during the day to rest and limit the operation of complex machinery at the end of a long day.
"Ask for help if you're feeling fatigued, it's better to be safe than to push yourself to the point of injury," says Hoff.
It may be tempting to rush and finish your work faster, but a few extra minutes might be all it takes to prevent dangerous accidents and ensure the safety of yourself and others.