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ASSE tips aim to prevent farming fatalities (9/3)

September 3, 2009
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With the growing season in full swing and the recent release of fatal work injury statistics showing an upward spiral in the farming industry, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) encourages safety, health and environmental professionals to become active in assisting agricultural producers and businesses in their area to take steps to prevent deadly agricultural injuries and illnesses. To assist in this effort, ASSE is providing work safety tips to help prevent the growing number of tragic agricultural industry worker injuries and illnesses, according to an organization press release. ASSE also suggests safety tips aimed at protecting young farmers, who face a greater risk of being injured.

As most farms do not fall under the auspices of OSHA rules and regulations, ASSE urges farmers to train all workers including young farmers well in all aspects of farming, including safety. Children are at special risk from farm-related accidents. Most of the 100-plus deaths among children on farms result from being innocent bystanders or passengers on farm equipment. Surveys indicate that many farm children are working in dangerous environments by the age of 10. Young farmers can enroll in a local farm safety camp, often sponsored by the local County Extension Service, a university, or Farm Bureau, which helps them recognize and learn how to address on-the-job hazards

ASSE established a new Agricultural Branch as part of the ASSE Environmental Practice Specialty, to provide a forum for safety, health and environmental professionals in the agricultural industry aimed at discussing risks and addressing solutions in this industry It will provide a venue to network and gain knowledge regarding best practices in safety and health issues affecting agricultural production operations of all sizes; including seed production, agricultural chemicals, transportation, equipment safety, compliance and enforcement.

ASSE also offers the following safety tips:
  • Develop an awareness of hazards on the farm and prepare for emergency situations including machinery entanglements, fires, vehicle collisions, electrical shocks from equipment, and adverse health effects from chemical exposures.
  • Reduce the risk of injury and illness with preventive measures. Read and follow instructions in equipment operator's manuals. Follow instructions on product labels for safe use, handling, and storage.
  • Conduct routine inspections of your equipment to determine problems and potential failures that may contribute to or cause an injury. Properly maintain tools, buildings, and equipment.
  • Conduct meetings with employees and family members to assess safety hazards, discuss potential accident situations, and outline emergency procedures.
  • Provide approved rollover protective structures (ROPS). ROPS are compartment structures (usually cabs or frames) intended to protect equipment operators from injuries caused by vehicle overturns. Use seat belts while the tractor is in operation on tractors equipped with a ROPS.
  • Make sure guards for farm equipment are put back on after maintenance to protect workers from moving machinery parts. Also, keep all equipment at least 20 feet from any overhead power lines or wires that support poles.
  • Review material safety data sheets and labels that come with all chemical products.
  • Communicate information concerning hazards to all workers. Prevent pesticide poisonings and dermatitis caused by chemicals by ensuring that protective measures recommended on the labels are taken.
  • Take the necessary precautions to prevent entrapment and suffocation caused by unstable surfaces of grain storage bins, silos, wagons and other storage structures.
  • Be aware that methane gas, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be present in manure pits in quantities sufficient to cause asphyxiation or explosion.
  • Farmers are at great risk of contracting respiratory problems due to the amount of dust and chemicals they breathe in on a daily basis. Wearing protective equipment, which is readily available, can prevent acute and chronic respiratory illnesses. Protective equipment such as mechanical filters and chemical cartridge masks are air-purifying respirators that help protect lungs from harmful gases and dusts.
  • Seek out local resources from ASSE Chapters, County Extension offices, Farm Bureau and health facilities focusing on the agricultural community.
For more information about agricultural safety and health and to view the downloadable ASSE farm safety facts for rural areas, farm safety and health tips, and farm safety tips for young workers visit www.asse.org/newsroom.

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