Statistics indicate that 85 percent of farm accidents typically happen to family members so safety should be a family affair. The safety of family members is just as important as hired workers but sometimes is taken for granted. For example, a farmer may feel that safety training is not important for a family member because they grew up on the farm and understand the hazards and consequently does not provide training on a new piece of equipment or does not provide awareness training on farm hazards such as deadly gases, unguarded power take-off shafts, missing guards, etc.
Take time not only during this national observance to make safety a family affair, but routinely conduct safety inspections and create greater safety awareness. If safety violations occur, family members should be reprimanded as severely as hired workers. If safety is established as a core value on your farm, it will be a safer workplace and environment for family members as well as others.
With young children the farm workplace should be off limits. Young children simply do not recognize the dangers and when you are operating equipment, they always assume that you see them. Every year nearly 100 young children needlessly die on our farms. As children grow and start participating in farm tasks you should refer to the North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks at www.nagcat.org for age-appropriate tasks.
The fatality rate of senior family members is higher than other members and presents a real concern. When most seniors are thinking about Social Security and retirement, senior farmers are looking forward to more than 10 years of productivity. The challenge is that often these aging farmers are at-risk due to diminishing physical and sensory abilities. Some of the age-related factors that affect farmers are:
• Hearing loss
• Visual impairments
• Balance and equilibrium challenges
• Reduced strength and flexibility
The challenge will be to minimize farm hazards and re-design the work environment and procedures to reduce risks. Make safety a priority by following these suggestions:
• Increase light levels in the workplace
• Equip stairs with hand rails
• Use hearing protection
• Limit exposure to particularly hazardous tasks
• Use power lifts when lifting
• Use mobility aids
• Provide lower steps for accessing equipment
• Refrain from operating equipment when using medications that have side effects such as reduced reaction time, impaired sense of balance, etc.
Farming is currently one of the most dangerous occupations in the US. The people that are more at-risk are family members. Take time during Farm Safety Week to revise priorities and make your farm as safe as it productive. You, family members and employees are the benefactors. Your investment in safety pays the highest dividends!!