ALABAMA A&M and AUBURN UNIVERSITIES
For more information,
contact Donna Reynolds, Extension Assistant Editor
AUBURN, Sept. 11---Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. More than 700 lives were lost in farm-related activities last year. Another 150,000 agricultural workers suffered disabling injuries from work- related accidents.
Farmer and ranchers are exposed to mechanical, chemical and environmental hazards daily. Many injuries occur when farm tractors roll over on the operator and its passengers. Only about half of the farm tractors used on U.S. farms are equipped with life-saving roll over protective structures and seat belts.
Power Take-Offs and moving parts on farm equipment also may entangle loose clothing or catch long hair, causing injury or even death.
Another hazard is driving farm machinery on public roads. Thousands of highway accidents involving farm machinery occur each year even though farm equipment is marked with a slow moving vehicle emblem. Drivers often grow impatient with farm equipment operators or have difficulty anticipating the intentions of operators driving farm machinery on rural highways.
Weather, farmstead terrain and atmospheric conditions present a host of hazards and risks to agricultural workers. In their attempt to remain profitable, farmers and ranchers often must overcome environmental conditions such as droughts, muddy fields, steep slopes or in some cases, severe weather.
Researchers also have documented an increase of skin cancer among farmers who work in the sun for prolonged periods without the benefit of protective clothing or sun screen.
In addition, farmers may be exposed to toxic gases from crop or manure storage, not to mention pesticides and chemicals which also can cause serious health problems. Exposure to these can result in asphyxiation, irreversible lung damage, lingering respiratory problems, burns and skin irritations.
Farm children are at special risk from farm-related accidents. Most of the 200-plus deaths among children on farms result from being innocent bystanders or passengers on farm equipment. Some farm children begin working in farm environments by age 10, many times without adequate training or supervision.
Senior farmers also are at increased risk from farm accidents and injuries. Farmers seldom retire at age 65. Many farm well into their 70s. These farmers often take prescribed medications, work with physical disabilities and/or suffer from hearing loss which can add to their risk of injury.
Hearing loss is prevalent among farmers who are exposed to loud and continuous noise from machinery and equipment which has not been properly maintained or when proper hearing protection is ignored.
The fact that farmers and ranchers often work alone in isolated rural areas adds to the risk of farming. They may become entrapped, entangled or disabled for hours before they receive medical attention.
Safety and health education plays a vital role in reducing fatalities and injuries on the farm.
This year's National Farm Safety and Health Week theme --"Precision Farming Includes Safety and Health" marks the 55th year the National Safety Council has focused on safety and health on the farm. The National Safety Council will provide farmers and ranchers with information that will help them to better identify hazards so they can prevent injuries to themselves and others.