October 16, 2021

Rural Issues: Make safety a priority

Like many of you, a family farm was an idyllic setting for my childhood. It is there that I developed my love and respect for the land. It is there that my parents and grandparents instilled in me and my siblings a good work ethic and an understanding of life and death.

Farms are a great place to live, work and play, but they can also be a hazardous environment for people of all ages. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the world.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, of the 2 million full-time production agriculture workers in 2018, about 100 per day suffered an injury that was serious enough to prevent them from working.

One hundred full-time farm workers are injured every day. Every single day.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 data confirms the dangers of working in agriculture with 573 fatalities, which equates to 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. That is a sobering statistic.

As kids, my siblings and cousins and I were active and helped on the farm, but our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and older cousins were guiding us to safe and healthy behaviors by serving as role models.

Among the many lessons learned, we knew not to wear loose clothing or clothes with strings when doing farm chores, to pay attention to our surroundings, to stay hydrated and to wear sunscreen.

We were taught from a very early age to be respectful of and to remain calm and quiet and to move slowly around livestock. We knew never to get between a mama cow and her calf and to keep a distance from a sow and piglets so she didn’t feel threatened.

According to the National Farm Medicine Center, a child dies in an ag-related incident about every three days and 33 children are seriously injured every day. Every single day.

Tractors cause 40% of accidental farm deaths in children under 15. More than half of children under 10 years old injured on the farm were not working at the time of injury. They were bystanders or playing in an agricultural work site.

The top three causes of ag-related injuries or deaths are machinery; motor vehicles, including ATVs; and drowning. The top causes of non-fatal ag injuries are falls, animals, and machinery and vehicles.

With harvest well underway across the heartland of our country, farmers often put in long days that stretch into night. If you, as an adult experience fatigue it is even more dangerous to have kids along.

Loss of concentration, reduced attention span, easily distracted and “zoning out” are all common signs of fatigue and can put you and any children that are with you, in harm’s way. Most people are more likely to make mistakes when they are tired, and this is when injuries are more likely to occur.

You know what it takes to make safety and health a priority on your farm. Please, just do it.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.