The national Ag Safety Awareness Program Week was March 6-10. However, Megan Schossow, outreach director and center coordinator for the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, says it’s always a good time to talk about safety on the farm. After all, farming comes with a lot of built-in danger.
“The short answer would be that it’s the nature of the work. There’s a lot of hazard exposure and inherent risk because of the work that’s happening. It can be dangerous for a lot of really obvious and other less obvious reasons. Machinery is a huge one. We know that roadway incidents with machinery between regular pedestrians and farm machinery are incredibly common. For machinery, it can also be any kind of tractor or machinery rollover. There may be livestock on the farm. So, livestock can do any kind of animal interaction injuries, but they also pose an infectious disease threat. Farmers tend to work alone a lot, and that is inherently risky.”
She says things like long hours in the spring and fall can also lead to accidents, and those accidents on the farm can hit all age groups.
“It is all age spectrums. Kids are particularly vulnerable, as well. And it’s interesting working in agricultural health and safety because a lot of folks want to tell us their near-miss or their incident, whatever may have happened to them or a family member, and so I hear a lot of personal stories. And I have heard, so many times, that something happened because the farmer knew what the right thing to do was, and they wanted to save six seconds, whatever it may be.”
Schossow talked about safety when operating farm machinery on public roads.
“With machinery, something that I say all the time is to check your slow-moving vehicle emblems and check lighting. That’s how other people see you. That’s incredibly important. Kind of annoying, because we hear it all the time, but defensive driving, especially for agricultural vehicles. You only control your own driving and most other folks, even in rural areas, are just not familiar enough with farm equipment to see how they travel, how they handle, when they turn, and things like that.”
It’s also important to be safe around livestock that can be unpredictable.
“Something we talk about a lot is safe animal handling, and a lot of that has to do with knowing how to approach a certain animal. So, cattle have one blind spot. It’s right behind them, and they also can’t see incredibly well directly in front of them. And there’s a pressure zone that’ll help move them and control their movements.”
The UMASH website has safety checklists farmers can use to keep their operations safe. Go to umash.umn.edu.