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  • Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog: jldphotographblog.com.
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It seems lately there has been an outpouring of events in my life and people who are connected to me's lives that keep reminding me of how tangible our lives are. As people on this Earth, but more importantly, as farmers we are not invincible. No matter how much we think we are, our lives can be taken from us in an INSTANT. I have even heard some people verbalize "oh that won't happen to me". It only takes one error and your life could be flashing before your eyes. I am sure that every single one of us can count at least one person we've known who has been injured or had their life taken in a farm-related accident. It shakes close to home when it happens, and safety isn't something we talk much about. 

 

farm related deaths.jpg

 

Did you know that agriculture has been deemed the 8th most dangerous job? In 2011, the injury rate for agricultural workers was over 40 percent higher than the rate for all workers.The Department of Labor states that " farm related accidents claim as many as 1300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, most of which are preventable." But even then, farm accidents don't just cost lives, limbs, or health, they also cost equipment breakdowns and delays. Accidents are usually caused by avoidable physical hazards, carelessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related actions such as rushing to get things done. The majority of those factors can be prevented. So if they are preventable, what steps can we take to ensure farm safety?

 

Get Some Sleep

Farmers talk a lot about hard work and it is something to be very proud of! In a society where the value of hard work is long gone, farmers are a shining example of those seemingly "old fashioned" values. If only more people could learn to value work like farmers do. Farmers are usually up before the sun and come home after dark. Sometimes they work all night because it's simply what you've got to do to get done. But is it possible that the sacrifice of our sleep could potentially be dangerous? 

 

Stop for a minute and think about a time where you've experienced someone (or maybe even yourself) fall asleep at the wheel. Of a tractor, truck, or other piece of equipment. You are not alone. Nearly 60% of people have admitting to driving drowsy and nearly 37% of people have admitted to actually falling asleep at the wheel! That is a pretty sobering statistic... And as the wife to a man who farms 20 miles away, him falling asleep at the wheel of his pickup to come home is something that crosses my mind almost weekly. 

 

Watch Out For Potential Hazards

What about throwing caution to the wind when doing on the farm activities? Entering into grain bins or leaving a tractor running to check a malfunction "just this once". Or maybe because it's how you've always done it and nobody has ever gotten hurt. Not respecting machinery of any sort leads to accidents and injuries. 

 

Be aware of these potential situations. And if that thought crosses your mind "this may be dangerous" then it may be best not to do it. Sometimes it takes planning and preparing to minimize hazards, but it is better than losing your life over it. Here are some general hazards to watch out for from the National Ag Safety Database

 

  • Use protective equipment or safety guards even if it means taking an extra second to put it on or off
  • Whenever parking or leaving a piece of machinery for any length of time; even to check a malfunction; the motor should always be shut off, brakes engaged, the transmission in park-lock or in gear, keys removed and any attachments disengaged.
  • All implements and attachments should be used in the proper manner for which they were de-signed, and lowered completely to the ground when exiting or shutting-down the tractor. Never over-load wagons.
  • If a piece of equipment becomes clogged or jammed, never attempt to clean out the blockage until the machine is shut off and all moving parts come to a complete stop.
  • Never tow an implement improperly hitched to a tractor or truck. Equipment being towed should be hitched directly to the draw bar with a hitch pin secured in place by a cotter pin. Do not tow implements with chains, cables or ropes. The breakage of chains, cables and ropes while towing can cause severe, even fatal injuries to the driver and bystanders. 

 

Take Time to Train & Teach

My dad jokes about when he learned to butcher, his dad basically handed him a truck, knives, and a steel and said no go out and butcher. I have a feeling many farm kids will tell you that is how they learned to drive a tractor. Dad simply gave them a crash course in how it works and off they went.

 

Of course, we value our children working alongside us and as kids we are elated when we get to help Dad or Mom out on the farm. The thought of danger doesn't even cross our minds. As this Southwest Farm Press article so eloquently says, "Farm families, like most of us, want to protect their children without sheltering them too much. My dad would never have knowingly put me in danger. It was a simpler time and we didn't consider the danger." Here's a startling statistic for you. Farm machinery, including tractors, accounts for 36 percent of (farm-related) deaths in youth. Thirty percent of farm machinery-related deaths occur in children less than 5 years old. It just breaks my heart. 

 

So what can we do? Take some time to teach your children (and your employees for that matter) about those hazards and dangers. Guide them in the correct steps to safety and teach them to respect the machinery. Before allowing them to use a piece of equipment, the person should have complete training in the item to be used, and be made aware of hazards that may occur with its misuse. Besides actual training programs, manuals are a good thing to let them read. 

 

Attitude & Being Aware

 

I would argue that one of the most important aspects of farm safety is the attitude of the operator. If the operator is constantly on the lookout for accident situations, if he doesn't take chances, and if he doesn't accept accidents as being a part of farming, he will probably not be involved in an accident. On the other hand, if he believes that he can cut corners, always doing things half assed, or that he won't ever get hurt... accidents will happen. Accidents happen to all of us, even those of us who are careful!

 

 

I would say that the majority of farmers are pretty safety cautious because they know that if they are hurt, there is no one else there to get the work done. But it is easy in a movement of stress to rush to get things done and safety goes out the window. Always being aware of the dangers and keeping your mind on the job you are doing at that moment versus what else you need to get done can prevent many accidents. 

 

It is my hope that through simple prevention, we can eliminate stories like I heard this week from a friend of their neighbor getting caught in a baler trying to fix a netting malfunction. It took his life and consequently his wife and 11 year old daughter found him. Accidents happen, but let's try and prevent more from happening with prevention. Attitude and being aware is a key component, as the quote above states, 90% of all agricultural accidents can be prevented. It's simply up to you!