Since farming literally all takes place in the “field,” preparations for safe operations and responding to an emergency are doubly challenging. Remote operations force farm managers to sacrifice much of the control that is available in stationary plant operations, where water and light availability are not issues and where wind and other environmental elements can be controlled. The lack of control makes planning for emergency response more difficult, because it carries an entirely new realm of “what if’s” to consider.

Yet another complicating factor is that many of the workers employed by agribusinesses are migrant, making them most often unfamiliar with their surroundings and the specific locations of emergency response facilities, like eyewashes or even first aid kits.

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Randy Jacobson of Sierra Safety Services in Visalia, Calif., recalls about 30 migrant workers working in California’s central valley agricultural region were stricken by pesticides sprayed in an adjacent field last year. He says the scenario is becoming all too common due to demands for cost-cutting and increased productivity. Sierra Safety Services provides emergency response products tailored to the agricultural community and Jacobson stresses the need for education and planning.

Safety and response regulations, like CFR40 (Code Federal Regulations), mandate overall worker safety and the precautions farm operators must take. And state regulators, such as Cal OSHA, have targeted agribusinesses for closer scrutiny due to the increased level of accidents. Lest we forget, the ANSI Z358.1 standard also applies. With that in mind, it’s important for farm operators to plan for safety, train all employees in the location and operation of emergency response assets and make certain that adequate response assets are present.

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Equipment options

Let’s consider the types of products that are available for remote use:

Personal Eyewash Units — Squeeze-bottles and other personal eyewashes should be kept in the immediate vicinity of employees. The main purpose of these products is to provide immediate initial flushing only. Then the injured individual is required to proceed to a more robust eyewash capable of irrigating the eyes for the required 15-minute period. Personal eyewash units are not intended to replace full-feature eyewash equipment, as they cannot provide the required irrigation protocol.

Gravity-Fed Portable Eyewashes— Gravity-fed portable eyewashes are available to meet the ANSI Z358.4-2004 requirement for a full 15-minute irrigation cycle at .4 gpm. These products generally are lightweight plastic designs, featuring solid mounting brackets and easy-access pull-down eyewash arms. Bacteriostatic additive is needed to permit storage of a single water charge for up to six months. (See photo #1.) Recognizing ANSI’s tepid water requirement, several gravity-fed products are also available with tepid water delivery capabilities. The best of these units features a 1,000 watt, 120VAC submergible, thermostatically controlled heater that maintains water temperature at 75° F in ambient temperatures as low as -30° F.

Air-Charged Portable Eyewashes — In many instances, air-charged eyewashes are the most appropriate response. Typically featuring stainless steel tanks that serve as a solid base of a product that sits flat on the ground, air-charged systems usually mount the dust shielded eyewash heads on top of the tank. Product capacities generally range from 10 gallons for systems that are intended for eyewash use only to 37 gallons for systems that may also feature a full-body sprayer capability. A tire-type air inlet valve is used, complimented by a pressure monitoring gauge. (See Photo #2.)

The best of these products feature plumbed in, eyewash-quality, diffused anti-surge spray heads that ensure an injury victim’s optimal comfort during the full 15-minute irrigation cycle.

The bottom line is that critical elements of emergency response must be provided to injured workers regardless of their job location. And that requirement can be met with recognition of the risks and dangers, as well as knowledge of the products that can best help you mitigate and respond to those circumstances.