The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ranks farming as the 6th most dangerous occupation in America. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), reports that 417 farmers and farm worker fatalities in 2016.
Michigan agriculture accounted for 19 of those work-related fatalities, according to Michigan State University’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, representing 11.7 percent of the total 162 work-related deaths in the state in 2016 – a rate of 22.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Those statistics make agriculture second only to construction in the number of work-related deaths which represented 40 deaths and the highest risk of 25.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Preliminary 2017 figures for work-related fatalities in Michigan agriculture stands at 17.
Additionally, NIOSH reports that of the estimated two million full-time workers employed in the production of crops, livestock, and poultry in 2017, approximately 100 agricultural workers will suffer an injury resulting in lost work time on daily basis.
While farm safety should always be a top priority, as fall harvest gets underway throughout Michigan, National Farm Safety and Health Week, recognized Sept. 16 – 22, should remind all farmers and their rural neighbors to stop long enough and think about minimizing risks and exposure to avoid becoming another statistic, says Michigan Farm Bureau’s Ag Labor & Safety Services Manager, Craig Anderson.
“Over the next several months, farmers will be working longer hours—starting their days before sunrise without resting until long after sunset, meaning fatigue will become a much bigger factor in staying safe,” Anderson said. “Compound those long hours with moving tractors, combines, grain carts, grain augers and grain bins – it creates numerous opportunities for agriculture work-related injuries, or worse yet – fatalities.”
Fall harvest is also prime-time for road-related accidents, says Anderson, with many of today’s large harvest and tillage-related farm equipment often moving slowly — making it difficult for motorists to know how to behave when sharing the road.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents were the leading cause of death in 2016. In terms of work-related injury in agriculture,” Anderson said, “motorist and farmers alike share the responsibility in understanding the proper use and recognition of Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs.”
SMV emblems, available in plastic, metal or as an adhesive decal, are intended as a unique identification for vehicles which by design move slowly (25 miles per hour or less), or present other potential hazard, on the public roads says Anderson, adding that using the SMV emblem for anything else, such as driveway markers is prohibited.
“SMVs are meant to serve a very specific purpose – alerting motorist to farm equipment that is traveling at a much slower speed or presenting a different hazard than typical motor vehicles,” Anderson said. “Farmers are encouraged to make sure they have the SMV emblem prominently displayed and replace those that are either faded or may be peeling. Likewise, motorists need to realize that the closure rate between a farm implement moving at 23 mpg or slower and a vehicle travelling at 55 to 60 mph, is incredibly fast.”
Safety video resources for sharing:
Monsanto Company's Off-the-Job Safety efforts focus on remaining safe 24/7. The Off-the-Job Safety program was created to help employees, their friends and families, rural communities and customers. Here are just three videos in a series, posted to YouTube for viewing and sharing with family members, employees and co-workers:
Grain Bin Safety Basics: Fifteen to 20 grain bin entrapments are documented each year. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety's (NECAS) Dan Neenan discusses how grain bin entrapments can be prevented and how quickly these dangerous events could occur.
Practicing Tractor Safety: A farmer shares the details of a near-fatal tractor rollover accident. Bill Field from Purdue University shares tips to help avoid these types of incidents.
PTO Safety Reminders: Steve Wettschurack, Agricultural Emergency Response specialist, recounts a tragic accident involving a grower caught in his tractor’s power take off. Dan Neenan, National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) director, also discusses the practical and simple safety best practices farmers to prevent PTO accidents.
Safety tips for farmers
To make sure you, your family and employees don’t become another farm safety statistic, follow these safety tips.