Stop and Proceed with Caution During Harvest Season

September 5, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

On a cold, November day, a mid-western farmer was digging postholes on his farm when his coat sleeve became entangled in the machinery. In an instant, his left arm dangled by a few tendons below the elbow, and his spinal cord was bruised. This 45-year-old farmer now has use of both hands, but must use a wheelchair and is considered quadriplegic.

In an interview the farmer considered himself to be somewhat safe, but admitted that he still held on to some unsafe work practices. He admitted that he had been doing some things for so many years that he didn’t think of them as dangerous.

According to the National Safety Council farming is currently the most hazardous industry in the United States. Despite advances in equipment safety and more farm safety educational campaigns, farming has not realized the reductions in injuries that construction and other industries have. Farmers still get caught in augers, pinned under heavy equipment, entangled in combines and suffocated in grain bins. Injury surveys have shown that farmers are six times more likely to be killed in work-related accidents than workers in other industries.

The leading cause of death and traumatic injuries continues to be tractors and farm machinery. With harvest season upon us now is a critical time to slow down and proceed with caution. Being safe is not complicated but it does require diligence and consistency. It is a matter of adhering to safety procedures for equipment operation, providing training and close supervision of employees, keeping children out of the workplace, and establishing safety as a core value.

The time pressures are often cited as a reason for so many farm accidents. It is interesting to note that most injuries and accidents happen during planting and harvesting when the time pressures peak. Farmers are rushing to get a lot done in a limited time and working longer hours. The pressure is certainly greater when farmers are also working off the farm. This is the case on more than 3 out of every 4 farms in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Production agriculture lacks a uniform work force. We have the young and elderly working alongside the breadwinner. There are people with varying degrees of intellect, skills and physical abilities. The situation is critical with children and aging farmers who want to remain active. With children we need to be ever cognizant of cognitive and developmental issues and with the aging farmer we need to recognize that senses and abilities are not what they use to be. It is not surprising that the risks are higher for the young and the elderly. That means extra supervision is needed and more care should be exercised when assigning tasks.

Prepare an emergency action plan and review it often with all family members and workers on your farm. Include steps to handle various incidents that could occur on your farm to include providing first aid care and treatment, tractor and machinery shut off procedures, fire extinguisher use, and develop a communication plan to call 911 and other necessary resources in an emergency.

Take time right now to think about safety in your farm business. Develop a sound safety philosophy and written plan and hold employees accountable. Remember that accidents don’t just happen – they are caused. That means they are preventable!

Safety is a value! Make it a core value on your farm and your farm will be a safer place to live and work. It also means that you will be reaping safety in addition to a crop this harvest season!

Submitted by Ron Jester on behalf of Mid-Atlantic Agrability/Delaware Cooperative Extension

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Arthritis and Agriculture

April 25, 2013 under CANR News

Arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm operators and is considered one of the leading causes of disability by customers of the USDA AgrAbility Project. With the average age of the American farmer now above 57, increasingly more farmers will find the tasks difficult to complete. For example arthritis can cause significant impairments to one’s mobility, dexterity, capacity to lift heavy loads and emotional well-being due to unmanaged pain and other factors.

Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases that can affect the joint and surrounding tissue. Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, and fibromyalgia.

Arthritis is considered one of the most disabling conditions a farmer can face and is the leading cause of disability of farmers in the Mid-Atlantic area. Arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm operators. As work tasks become more difficult, many farmers and agricultural workers may not even associate the pain with arthritis. Signs and symptoms of arthritis include the following:

  • Persistent pain
  • Stiffness, swelling, redness or heat in the joint
  • Difficulty in moving the joint
  • Possible fatigue, weight loss and nausea

Arthritis is especially detrimental to farmers and farm workers because of the nature of their work. Many farm chores such as mounting tractors, baling hay, feeding livestock, harvesting vegetables, milking cows, operating equipment, cleaning out broiler houses require strength, dexterity, and mobility, which are lessened by the effects of arthritis.

According to medical professionals there are benefits of exercise for farmers with arthritis. Exercise can help you manage arthritis pain and reduce the disability as well as increase energy levels, help with sleep and decrease depression and fatigue. Exercise is also considered very important for healthy joints. Moving your joints helps keeps them fully mobile and strengthens the surrounding muscles which help support the joints.

Since there is no known cure for arthritis, education and awareness of pain management techniques are considered the best practice for treating the disease. This includes but is not limited to joint protection, work simplification and stress reduction. A few solutions that can be implemented to help control joint stress and pain in farming include the following:

  • Wear quality, non-slip footwear
  • Use appropriate assistive aids such as automatic couplers, mobility devices, hydraulic lift table, shop hoists, powered cordless caulk guns and more
  • Adhere to proper posture when sitting for long periods of time in tractors
  • Use large muscle groups to complete a task. For example use the legs instead of the back to lift.
  • Avoid gripping and grasping for long periods of time.
  • Simplify jobs and tasks
  • Pace yourself throughout the day

Arthritis is a debilitating disease, but it is manageable. You will be able to farm productively and safely. The Mid-Atlantic Agrability Project and the Arthritis Foundation are willing to help in any way that they can. They promote technologies and given your tenacity and willingness to try, you can preserve your livelihood on the farm.

For more information on arthritis please visit Mid-Atlantic Agrability on the web at www.mid-atlanticagrability.com or visit the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis-ag.org.  You may also call Mid-Atlantic Agrability toll free at 1-877-204-FARM (3276) for a DVD titled Gaining Ground on Arthritis in the Agricultural Workplace and a brochure titled “Arthritis and Agriculture”.

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Mid-Atlantic Agrability Webinar to Address Mental Health First Aid

February 14, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Farming is a stressful occupation due to so many unknown variables that farmers face – weather, market prices, crop diseases, insects, workplace hazards, and the many personal challenges that confront each of us.

Consequently it is not surprising that farmers are often at risk to mental health challenges. Studies have shown that farmers experience one of the highest rates of suicide of any industry and there is growing evidence that those involved in farming are at higher risk of developing mental health problems. The suicide rate among farmers in several studies has been reported to be from 40% to 200% above the national average and during downturns in the farm economy, it is significantly greater.

This webinar overviews Mental Health First Aid, a national program that helps laypersons identify and respond to people who are showing signs and symptoms of mental illness or are experiencing a crisis — much as CPR helps non-clinicians respond to medical emergencies. Webinar participants will be introduced to the signs of mental stress and specifically red flag behaviors, how to support a person experiencing a mental health problem and what steps to take until professional treatment is received. You’ll also learn how to earn your certification in the program and how to bring Mental Health First Aid to your community.

This course will benefit a variety of audiences, including Extension agents, Agrability staff and partners, case managers, farm leaders, service providers, health organizations, agriculture professionals, care givers, first responders and the general public.

Don’t miss this exceptional opportunity to learn from mental health professionals about identifying symptoms and risk factors and supporting farmers under stress.

WEBINAR PRESENTER:

Lea Ann Browning-McNee is the deputy director for the Mental Health Association of Maryland, the state’s oldest and largest mental health education and advocacy group. Prior to joining MHAMD, she was the outreach and development officer for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, where she helped lead the launch of Mental Health First Aid- USA and created other new education and outreach programs. Lea Ann has more than 15 years of experience in public education and social marketing and currently serves as adjunct faculty at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Lea Ann received her Bachelors of Science and Masters Degree from Towson University. 

REGISTRATION:

Please go directly to http://sites.udel.edu/carvelnews/?p=2083  and register for the event. The webinar is free but registration is required. Also registration is limited so please register as soon as possible.

Information an accessing the session will be sent to registrants by February 22nd.  If you have any questions, please contact Ron Jester, Mid-Atlantic Agrability at 302-856-7303 or email rcjester@udel.edu.

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Safe Farming Possible Even for Those with Vision Problems

August 7, 2012 under CANR News

Vision impairment can be a significant barrier to completing farm tasks safely and efficiently, but many vision problems such as cataracts are treatable. Farmers are an at-risk population for cataracts and the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project reminds farmers that there are ways to prevent cataracts and accommodate low vision or loss of vision in everyday farming tasks.

Estimates indicate that one in seven people in the United States has a cataract. That statistic applies to farmers as well as the general public.  A cataract is a clouding of the normal clear lens of the eye, preventing light from passing through to focus properly on the retina. If you believe you have a cataract, see your family eye doctor for a complete examination. Symptoms of a cataract may include increased nearsightedness; sensitivity to light and glare, especially while driving at night; blurred vision; distorted images in either eye; changes in the way you see colors, or colors seem faded; cloudy, filmy or fuzzy vision; double vision; frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription; changes in the color of the pupil; poor night vision. Medical advances make it possible to successfully treat cataracts with surgery. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the United States and has more than a 90% success rate.

Farming with any vision impairment, including a cataract, can be challenging and dangerous. If you find yourself trying to farm with impaired sight, the following tips from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired can make farm chores a bit safer:

  • Hang wind chimes outside the house as an audible landmark.  “Tune” farm buildings by using different chimes to identify different buildings.
  • Suspend a tennis or playground ball from a piece of twine to mark when to stop a vehicle as you drive into a building.  The idea is that when the vehicle’s windshield bumps into the ball it’s time to stop.
  • Make sure work areas and walkways are well lighted and that light bulbs are checked and replaced regularly.
  • Color code tools like rakes, hoes and shovels by wrapping a wide band of colored duct or electrical tape around the handles.
  • Wrap rubber bands around handles to distinguish between regular and Phillips head screw drivers.  Do the same with metric wrenches in the tool box to distinguish them from standard wrenches.
  • Hang an old burlap feed bag about two feet away from a low-hanging beam or light fixture as a reminder to duck your head.  Burlap works best because it is more likely to catch on a cap than smoother materials.
  • Prevent eye damage by wearing sunglasses that block UVA/UVB rays and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors to reduce exposing eyes to ultraviolet light.

For more information about farming with a disability, visit the Mid-Atlantic Agrability Web site at www.mid-atlanticagrability.com  or call 1-877-204-3276  to make an appointment with an AgrAbility Case Manager.

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Arthritis and Agriculture

May 14, 2012 under CANR News

Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases that can affect the joint and surrounding tissue. Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, and fibromyalgia.

Arthritis is considered one of the most disabling conditions a farmer can face and is the leading cause of disability of farmers in the Mid-Atlantic area.  Arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm operators.  Farmers are an aging population and the average age today is above 57.  As work tasks become more difficult, many farmers and agricultural workers may not even associate the pain with arthritis.  Signs and symptoms of arthritis include the following:

  • Persistent pain
  • Stiffness, swelling, redness or heat in the joint
  • Difficulty in moving the joint
  • Possible fatigue, weight loss and nausea

Arthritis is especially detrimental to farmers and farm workers because of the nature of their work.  Many farm chores such as mounting tractors, baling hay, feeding livestock, harvesting vegetables, milking cows, operating equipment, cleaning out broiler houses require strength, dexterity, and mobility, which are lessened by the effects of arthritis.

According to medical professionals there are benefits of exercise for farmers with arthritis.  Exercise can help you manage arthritis pain and reduce the disability as well as increase energy levels, help with sleep and decrease depression and fatigue.  Exercise is also considered very important for healthy joints.  Moving your joints helps keeps them fully mobile and strengthens the surrounding muscles which help support the joints.

Since there is no known cure for arthritis, education and awareness of pain management techniques are considered the best practice for treating the disease.  This includes but is not limited to joint protection, work simplification and stress reduction.  A few solutions that can be implemented to help control joint stress and pain in farming include the following:

  • Wear quality, non-slip footwear
  • Use appropriate assistive aids such as automatic couplers, mobility devices, hydraulic lift table, shop hoists, powered cordless caulk guns and more
  • Adhere to proper posture when sitting for long periods of time in tractors
  • Use large muscle groups to complete a task.  For example use the legs instead of the back to lift.
  • Avoid gripping and grasping for long periods of time.
  • Simplify jobs and tasks
  • Pace yourself throughout the day

Arthritis is a debilitating disease, but it is manageable.  You will be able to farm productively and safely.  The Mid-Atlantic Agrability Project and the Arthritis Foundation are willing to help in any way that we can.  We promote technologies and given your tenacity and willingness to try, you can preserve your livelihood on the farm.

For more information please visit Mid-Atlantic Agrability on the web at
www.mid-atlanticagrability.com or visit the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis-ag.org.   You may also call Mid-Atlantic Agrability toll free at 1-877-204-FARM (3276).

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