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


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.


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. 


Please go directly to  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