The number of ag workers that suffer serious injuries or die on the job each year is staggering. In 2019 alone, 410 farmers and farm workers died from work-related injuries. In addition, about 100 ag workers lose work time because of a work-related injury every single day.
To protect your workers and prevent tragedies from occurring on your farm, here are some tips for preventing farm-related injuries.
Have a Plan in Place
To ensure that you know what to do if an accident happens, you should have a plan in place for how to handle accidents. Think about the accidents and injuries that your workers might be the most susceptible to, and work on your plan from there.
All ag workers should be briefed on how to handle different injuries. Educating all your employees about the statistics of on-farm injuries and the risks associated with certain equipment will go a long way to preventing injuries.
Gather Emergency Contact and Medical Information
Part of your emergency protocols should include having current emergency contact information of everyone on the farm. You should know who you should contact if anyone gets injured and how they are related to the employee. You should also have any relevant medical information on your employees that could affect their treatment in the event of an injury.
Keep Emergency Supplies on Hand
Preparing for accidents also means having the right supplies on hand. All vehicles and machinery should have a safety kit and eyewash rinse bottles that can be used in case of emergencies. The faster that you’re able to react to a serious incident, the less serious the injuries themselves will be.
Use Near Misses as Learning Opportunities
In addition to all the incidents that result in serious injuries, there will also be incidents that nearly led to injuries but you narrowly avoided the disaster. Don’t just brush these incidents off! Use them as learning opportunities by discussing them and figuring out how you could prevent a similar situation from happening again. The more proactive you are about avoiding farm-related injuries, the safer everyone will be.
Mitigate Risk with the Buddy System
Some of the most high-risk places on the farm are grain bins and breeding pens. Not only are injuries especially likely to happen here, but they are also more likely to be serious. It may not always be convenient, but one of the best ways you can avoid injuries and fatalities in these situations is by implementing the buddy system. Always make sure there’s someone nearby who could get help quickly in the case of an accident.
Constantly Assess the Risk of Farm-Related Injuries
One of the simplest ways to avoid accidents is to constantly take inventory of your surroundings. Look for ways people could get hurt so you can remove the risks and keep people safe. If you have a lot of hired help on your farm, this will be especially beneficial. People are constantly moving things around, and mistakes are bound to happen. Take the time to make sure the keys weren’t left in the tractor, the equipment was put back in the correct place, and the tripping hazard has been taken care of.
Bring In Outside Help
Sometimes you’re too used to seeing the same place day after day that you become blind to the risks. In these cases, it might be a good idea to hire an outside consultant to walk through the farm and provide safety suggestions. They may pick up on risks that you didn’t notice.
You also should assign someone to focus on safety on the farm either one individual or for a larger farm developing a small committee. The role would be to develop policies and practices aimed at preventing injuries, educating other employees, and ensuring OSHA and other state compliance.
Written by: Lori Culler, AgHires Founder & Owner
See more from the AG’s HR Coach here.
Lori Culler (Lennard), founder and owner of AgHires, grew up in and around the Agricultural Industry on her family's generation potato, tomato, and grain operation in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana.